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Components of Successful Staple Food Fortification Programs: Lessons From Latin America

Martorell, Reynaldo, de Romaña, Daniel López
anemia, children, data collection, experts, folic acid, food fortification, interviews, iron, monitoring, neural tube defects, nutrient deficiencies, public-private partnerships, quality control, staple foods, sugars, vitamin A, vitamin status, wheat flour, women, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Latin America
There are few effectiveness evaluations of food fortification programs, and little is known about what makes programs successful. We examined 3 food fortification programs in Latin America to identify common features that might explain their success and to draw lessons for program design and implementation everywhere: The vitamin A fortification of sugar in Guatemala with impact on vitamin A status of the population, the fortification of a basket of foods with iron and other micronutrients in Costa Rica with impact on iron status and anemia in women and children, and the fortification of wheat flour with folic acid in Chile, which reduced the incidence of neural tube defects. We identified pertinent literature about these preselected programs and asked regional experts for any additional information. We also conducted structured interviews of key informants to provide historical and contextual information. Institutional research capacity and champions of fortification are features of successful programs in Latin America. We also found that private/public partnerships (industry, government, academia, and civil society) might be key for sustainability. To achieve impact, program managers need to use fortification vehicles that are consumed by the nutritionally vulnerable and to add bioavailable fortificants at adequate content levels in order to fill dietary gaps and reduce micronutrient deficiencies. Adequate monitoring and quality control are essential. For future programs, we recommend that the evaluation be specified up-front, including a baseline/end line and data collection along the program impact pathway to inform needed improvements and to strengthen causal inferences.