At last week’s Nutrition Society of Australia conference a debate was held on the topic “Fortified foods do more harm than good”. It was a fizzer with those supporting the proposition being unable to mount any serious arguments. A large majority of the audience disagreed with the idea both before and after the debate. But this was a very informed audience with deep knowledge of the rationale for fortification. Among less scientific groups hostility to food fortification appears to be growing. What’s the problem?
‘Tampering with the food supply’
One popular dietary myth is that the consumption of simple, minimally processed foods automatically translates into a healthy diet. As a consequence, any ‘tampering with the food supply’ by faceless scientific types is treated with suspicion and resisted. The defense of naturalism may be logical to a naive audience but it ignores the history of nutrient deficiency in humans. Even today in parts of Tibet a high percentage of the population, consuming a diet of simple, minimally processed foods, suffers from serious intellectual impairment due to iodine deficiency. One of the simplest dietary interventions of all – the addition of iodine to the salt used in food preparation – is all that it takes to solve this crippling problem.