New technology to help fight iron deficiency

Nestlé has acquired a novel technology developed by New Zealand scientists that will enable it to address one of the world’s most widespread nutritional deficiencies.

The unique technology, Ferri Pro, was developed to address nutritional iron deficiency, without adversely affecting the taste of food and beverages by researchers at the Riddet Institute Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), Massey University.

“We developed the technology to help to address the world’s most important nutritional deficiency, as over 1.6 billion people are suffering from iron deficiency anaemia. However, our goal was to not only address iron deficiency, but to address it without impacting product quality,” said Harjinder Singh, director of the Institute and distinguished professor, who also led the research team at Massey University.

According to the World Health Organisation, women and children are particularly at risk for iron deficiency, and if left untreated it can cause serious mental and physical harm.

To help reach vulnerable groups such as school-age children and expectant mothers, Nestlé fortifies affordable foods and beverages, like condiments and noodles, cereals and children’s milks. The acquisition of this technology will enable it to continue to make progress towards its efforts to reach millions of children and families.

“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. 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,” said Petra Klassen Wigger, head of nutrition, health and wellness at Nestlé Research.

New test for iron deficiency

Nestlé has assisted in and helped fund the development of the first iron deficiency test that does not require taking a blood sample. The work could benefit millions of people by making it easier and cheaper to detect the condition.

Iron deficiency affects more people than any other health problem, according to the World Health Organization. Women and children are particularly at risk, and left untreated it can cause serious mental and physical harm.

Most iron-deficient individuals are unaware that they need more iron. This is because current tests require taking blood and laboratory facilities to analyse it.

The new test for iron deficiency, described in research published in Nature Communications, takes about a minute and provides immediate results.

It involves using a small optical fibre to shine a blue laser light onto the lower lip. If zinc protoporphyrin – a chemical compound found in the blood of iron deficient people – is present, then it gives off a fluorescent light in response.

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