Nestlé acquires new fortification tech to tackle iron deficiency

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Swiss food giant Nestlé aims to step up its global fight against iron deficiency after acquiring a new food fortification technology developed by researchers in New Zealand.

The technology, Ferri Pro is a novel protein-iron complex that uses food-grade materials and a unique processing method to fortify certain foods without negatively affecting product quality.

“Typically, other forms of iron when added to products may interfere with the taste and colour, which can negatively impact consumer acceptance,”​ said a spokesperson for Nestlé.

“While FerriPro is still under development, the initial results from the research done by scientists at the Riddet Institute Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), Massey University, are positive and show good bioavailability.”

Iron deficiency anaemia

The World Health Organization (WHO) thinks iron deficiency anaemia is one of the most severe nutritional deficiencies globally with women and infants notably at risk even in the European region.

Iron deficiency anaemia affects around 1.48 billion people in 2015 with a lack of dietary iron estimated to cause approximately half of all anaemia cases globally.

In the same year, anaemia due to iron deficiency resulted in approximately 54,000 deaths –a decrease from the 213,000 deaths recorded in 1990.

“The technology was developed to help to address the world’s most important nutritional deficiency, with over 1.6 billion people suffering from iron deficiency anaemia,”​ added Riddet Institute director, distinguished professor Harjinder Singh, who led the research team.

“It provides advantages over other sources of iron present in foods, including ferrous sulphate, the recognised leading iron supplement.” 

Ferri Pro possibilities​?

While Nestlé would not be drawn into future applications for Ferri Pro, the company did not rule out the possibility of its use in fortifying other foods and beverages.

Likewise, its use in personalised or sports nutrition foods/products was not off the table, where the technology’s benefits could boost specific nutrient content for a user’s specific requirements.

“At Nestlé we believe that we have a key role to play in support of global efforts to tackle the global burden of micronutrient deficiencies,”​ said Petra Klassen Wigger, head of nutrition, health and wellness at Nestlé Research.

“Through this collaboration with Massey University, we will have access to an innovative technology that enables us to effectively fortify our foods and beverages without compromising the quality and taste."

Nestlé fortification policy

In 2015, Nestlé revealed its commitment to addressing micronutrient malnutrition with its policy to promote foods and beverage fortification at levels sufficient to help to improve and maintain health.

The firm was also committed to fortification actions that did not increase the risk of developing adverse consequences from excessive consumption.

“At Nestlé, we are committed to addressing under-nutrition through fortifying affordable and regularly consumed foods and beverages,” ​the spokesperson said.

“We believe that this helps individuals and families meet their daily requirements and contributes toreducing the risk of micronutrient deficiencies at scale.

“In 2017, 174 billion individual servings of Nestlé products were fortified with at least one of the big 4 (iron, zinc, vitamin A & D) across 66 countries.”

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