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.

The tiny bouillon cube that strikes a blow against iron deficiency

Maggi have released a bouillon cube, a tiny seasoning product sold in huge volumes across Central and West Africa to fight against iron deficiency anaemia.

Anaemia is the condition that arises when we have too few healthy red blood cells, or too little haemoglobin, the protein in these cells that transports oxygen around the body.

It affects an estimated 1.6 to 2 billion people in the developed and developing world, with approximately half of these cases due to a lack of iron in the diet, because this vital mineral helps us generate haemoglobin.

Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency anaemia, which contributes to the deaths of 50,000 women in childbirth a year, and impairs children’s physical and mental development.

According to Scentific Advisor at Nestle’s Nutrition, Health and Wellness department, Petra Klassen-Wigger, many people are failing to eat enough nutritious food, with Nestle aiming to help tackle the problem on a global scale by adding relevant micronutrients to its most popular products.

“Public health data shows us that Central West Africa suffers from a high prevalence of iron deficiency. We looked at our product portfolio to identify potential carriers for fortification. Maggi bouillon cubes and tablets were widely consumed across the region, making them an ideal vehicle for iron fortification,” Klassen-Wigger said.

Adding iron to food poses serious technical challenges. It can alter the taste, and may turn products various unappetizing shades of brown.

That wasn’t the only problem. Fortifying the cubes with iron would also raise production costs. If this meant higher prices, then those in need of such products might find them unaffordable.

In 2012, Nestlé launched its new, iron-fortified Maggi bouillon cubes onto the Central and West African market. They looked the same. They tasted the same. But there was one crucial difference.

Millions of people across the region could now incorporate more iron into their diets, without changing their eating habits.

New solution for iron deficiency in vegetarians

Frutarom Health BU offers a new approach to tackle iron deficiency in vegan and vegetarian diets.

AB-Fortis, a patented encapsulated iron system, supports vegans/vegetarians, as well as women of childbearing years, who commonly suffer from iron deficiency. 

AB-Fortis, a clean label, GMO-free, all-natural ingredient has a high iron content and can be formulated into a full range of food and beverage applications.

Studies performed in young women and adults have shown that vegetarian (including vegan) men and women have lower iron stores than meat eaters. 

“Because iron isn't as easily absorbed from plant sources, the recommended intake of iron for vegetarians is almost double that of non-vegetarians,” explained Wouter Haazen, Product Manager for Frutarom Health. “It’s hard to increase iron intake from food alone.”

Iron is commonly recognized as a necessary nutrient for human diet. As a crucial component of red blood cells, it is vital to oxygen transport. A thorough scientific evaluation by EFSA led to the recognition that iron is a necessary nutrient that impacts energy metabolism, cognition and the immune system, among other body functions. Scientific studies demonstrate that iron deficiency leads to anemia, causing sufferers to feel chronically tired and out of breath (even after mild exertion), as well as having heart palpitations and a pale complexion.

Traditional iron supplements have a strong metallic taste and powerful oxidative properties—both undesirable for foods. They also are hard to digest, and sometimes cause nausea, constipation, gastric distress, and headaches. 

AB-Fortis is produced by a patented process to provide stable encapsulation with minimal release of free iron into the food matrix. The spherical gelation of ferric saccharate by calcium alginate results in an encapsulated iron salt with a high (40 per cent) iron content. 

Its suitability for food matrices and consumer acceptability was recently demonstrated in a successful bakery product targeted to children and launched in Spain by a market leader in this segment.

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
Close