Will fortification of staple foods make a difference to the dietary intake of South African children?
Objectives: To evaluate the estimated dietary intake of children at population level who consume fortified staple foods. Methods: In this study, a secondary data analysis of the database of the National Food Consumption Survey (NFCS; 1999) on dietary data of a nationally representative sample of children (n = 2 200) in South Africa was performed. Prior to 2003 there was no mandatory fortification of staple foods, with the exception of iodine added to salt. Mandatory fortification of maize and wheat flour was introduced in October 2003. Micronutrient values of fortified wheat and maize food sources were determined by chemical analyses of these foods. These values were then interpolated in the original staple food nutrient analysis determined in the primary analysis of the NFCS database. Findings: The findings of the present study indicated that the addition of micronutrients to staple foods made a significant difference to the intake of vitamin A, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, folic acid and iron. These improvements were particularly important in rural areas where children have the lowest mean dietary micronutrient intake. Conclusions: Based on the results of the secondary data analysis of the national dietary data together with the chemical analyses of fortified foods, it would appear that fortification of two of the most commonly eaten staple foods in the country will significantly improve the micronutrient intake of children under nine years of age and will improve the overall micronutrient density of their diets. It is recommended that appropriate educational messages on the fortification of staple foods in the country should be utilised to improve children's dietary intake at population level, provided such messages facilitate the consumption of the fortified staples by children.