The Second Global Summit on Food Fortification

Event details
  • March 22nd, 2020, - March 23rd, 2020,
  • Bangkok
  • Country: Thailand


The Second Global Summit on Food Fortification is a focal point of worldwide efforts to invigorate interest, awareness and investment in Large-Scale Food Fortification (LSFF) and biofortification[1] – two population-based interventions with enormous potential to contribute sustainably to reducing and preventing micronutrient deficiencies globally.

Fortifying staple foods and condiments with essential vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) is a proven, sustainable and cost-effective approach to improve the health and nutritional well-being of vulnerable population groups. Fortification significantly increases the micronutrient content of foods that are commonly and consistently consumed by all or most segments of the population, helping to prevent deficiencies from occurring without requiring changes in eating habits. It is eminently preventative in nature and thus complementary to more therapeutic approaches, like supplementation and can bring immediate effects, while more long-term approaches like improving dietary diversity are implemented. Having the right nutritional status can be especially important for events one can’t anticipate; micronutrients are necessary for optimal development very early during or even pre- pregnancy, and therefore fortification can ensure a growing embryo gets essential nutrients even before a woman knows she is pregnant or before she is able to seek prenatal care or take supplements.

Fortification can be done during plant cultivation (biofortification), during the milling or processing stages of food production (Large-Scale Food Fortification [LSFF] or industrial fortification) or at the point of consumption (home fortification). While all forms of fortification have their advantage in certain contexts, LSFF and biofortification are both population-based interventions which can be achieved at scale with strong partnerships between the public and private sectors and are thus the focus of this Summit.

Large Scale Food Fortification

To date, LSFF has substantially increased the availability of micronutrients important for health and development, including iodine, iron, folate, and vitamin A, in the diets of people across the globe. This has led to several success stories—such as reductions in birth defects, reduction in goitres, and improvements in vitamin A status. Nearly 100 years after the first industrial fortification efforts began, over 100 countries have national salt iodization programs, 82 countries mandate at least one kind of cereal grain fortification, and over 30 mandate the fortification of edible oils, margarine, and ghee. LSFF can be voluntary, mandatory or rolled out via public distribution systems and school meal programs. Despite this, some LSFF programs have yet to deliver their full potential in terms of reach and impact on nutrition in many countries. Success requires champions, solid partnerships between government, the private sector and other important aspects such as monitoring quality and compliance.

Biofortification

Biofortification by conventional crop breeding techniques produces varieties that have high levels of micronutrients, such as iron, zinc, or pro-vitamin A carotenoids, in addition to other non-negotiable traits desired by farmers. The release of biofortified crops began in earnest only in 2004, and since then, more than 300 varieties of 12 staple crops have been released in 60 countries, and hundreds more varieties are in testing. Some 10 million farming households are growing biofortified crops, directly benefiting about 50 million household members. While this is remarkable progress by global development standards, it is still far from the objective of “mainstreaming” biofortification so that these crops compose most of the staple foods grown and consumed in developing countries.

To truly bring biofortified crops to scale, biofortification must become part of national nutrition strategies and be fully integrated into commercial seed and food systems—just as fortified products are intrinsically linked to commercial markets.

Thus, the job is far from complete

Existing LSFF and biofortification programs need further investment to ensure they are part of national nutrition strategies, are enforced and better monitored so that populations in need can truly benefit. Legislation is a critical first step-it has been estimated that at least 75 additional low- and lower- middle-income countries (LMICs) could benefit from new mandates to fortify staple foods-but even this is not enough. In general, LSFF (and biofortification) coverage, quality and compliance to standards in many LMICs is distressingly low. Based on recent studies of industrially fortified foods spanning 16 countries, only half of the samples tested adhered to national standards. Improving capacity, resources and political will to carry out and enforce fortification mandates in LMICs is vital. Finally, while there is strong evidence from LMICs of the impact of large-scale fortification with iodine, iron, folic acid, and vitamin A, evidence of impact for some of the other nutrients and for biofortification is more limited. This is not surprising given the challenges inherent in evaluating the impact of population based-programs, and there is still much that could be done to strengthen the evidence-base for fortification. See Annex 1 for more background on the unfinished agenda.

Coming Together to Strengthen the Agenda

In 2015, leaders from government, business, academia, civil society, donor agencies, and international organizations gathered in Arusha, Tanzania for the first-ever Global Summit on Food Fortification #FutureFortified. Approximately 500 participants shared achievements, challenges and lessons learned, reviewed the latest studies and evidence, and aligned food fortification initiatives around a common agenda laid out in the Arusha Statement on Food Fortification. In this second Summit, we will aim to accelerate this momentum on LSFF and to ensure biofortification is an integral part of the discussion.

The Second Global Summit on Food Fortification

The Summit aims to build consensus around the most important tasks to be completed to ensure that large scale food fortification is optimally scaled according to global need and that existing food fortification programs are expanded, improved, monitored, and sustained effectively to achieve health impact. This summit will also explore potential complementarities between industrial fortification and biofortification as well as lessons learned from industrial fortification that are relevant to scaling biofortification efforts. Other themes to be featured in the Summit agenda include:

  • A review of global and national progress made in fortification efforts since the Arusha Summit;
  • The complimentary roles of industry, government, academia, and civil society in ensuring the success and sustainability of fortification initiatives at national, regional, and global levels;
  • Improving monitoring and ensuring quality and compliance of fortification across locally produced and imported food, bridging agriculture, trade and health systems;
  • Measuring impact and using data for advocacy, to increase accountability and to ensure evidence-based decisions; and
  • Improving national programs through advocacy, technical assistance, consumer activism and civil society engagement.

Objectives

This second Summit aims to build on that meeting by looking at current gaps and to increase awareness, and investment in large-scale food fortification and biofortification as highly effective interventions that deliver sustainable impacts on public health.

The summit will provide a platform to:

  • Assess progress against the five areas for action identified in the 2015 Arusha Statement on Food Fortification: 1) Generate new investment in the sector; 2) Improve oversight and enforcement of fortification standards and regulations; 3) Generate more evidence to guide fortification policy and program design; 4) Increase accountability and global reporting; 5) Continue to advocate at the global and country level.
  • Garner new and expanded commitments from official and non-traditional donors, governments and private sector to help expand, improve, and sustain fortification programs and ensure optimal impact in low and middle-income countries. This will include identifying national leaders and champions and catalysing new partnerships and resources.
  • Align on the way forward: Leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Nutrition for Growth Summit, align on the major tasks to be completed over the next five years to ensure that food fortification and biofortification programs are expanded, improved and sustained.

Participants

The Summit will convene approximately 250 leaders from across the globe, including the following:

  • Country delegations comprising government ministers and deputy-level leaders from priority countries as well as technical representatives from the government, research, development, civil society, and private sectors;
  • Senior global and regional industry representatives from companies that have demonstrated commitment or potential to contribute to food fortification and biofortification efforts by fortifying directly or providing resources and inputs;
  • Global and regional organizations, including UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia and research institutions, and foundations with experience and/or interest in food fortification and biofortification; and
  • Donors including bilateral and multilateral donors, foundations, and philanthropic organizations with current investments and/or interest in nutrition and food security.

What/Where/When

The Summit will consist of a series of political and practical sessions – all in plenary – on the days preceding the Micronutrient Forum Global Conference 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand (22 and 23 March 2020). There will be a festive dinner for all participants at the end of the first day (22 March 2020).

Hosts and Sponsors

As of April 3, 2019, Summit co-conveners and sponsors include the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), HarvestPlus, and the Micronutrient Forum[2].

Technical partners invited to play a leading role in the Summit include (but not limited to) the African Union, the International Micronutrient Malnutrition Prevention and Control Program (IMMPaCt) of the Centres for Disease Control, the Food Fortification Initiative (FFI), Helen Keller International (HKI), Iodine Global Network (IGN), Nutrition International (NI), Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), Project Healthy Children (PHC), TechnoServe, Sight and Life, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF),) World Food Program (WFP), and World Health Organization (WHO), and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Commission’s Food Fortification Advisory Services (2FAS).

Technical partners will advise on key topics for the Summit agenda as well as work, achievements, and case studies to be showcased at the event. Specifically, this will include: gathering success and innovation stories in fortification and biofortification to share at the event, providing guidance and insight to build the Summit’s content for plenary sessions, and assisting in the identification and recruitment of key speakers and panel experts.

Private sector collaborators will be invited to sponsor the summit as well and to provide critical inputs into the agenda


[1] The Second Global Summit on Food Fortification will focus on only two types of food fortification: large-scale or industrial food fortification and biofortification.

[2] Organizations interested in becoming summit co-conveners and sponsors should contact GAIN.