Micronutrients along the Food System

Building New Evidence and Alliances for Improving Nutrition

Micronutrients in the Food System

The food system is the interconnected system of everything and everybody that influences, and is influenced by, the activities involved in bringing food from farm to fork and beyond. The Micronutrient Forum 5th Global Conference will examine micronutrients as they relate to the food system. The conference art, created by Thai artist Kampanart Sangsorn, reflect the areas that we’ll be focusing on at the conference. Learn more below.

Beyond just food security, nutrition-sensitive agriculture focuses on the nutritional aspects of the foods being grown, including soil quality and fertility, crop diversity, nutrient density and the opportunity of biofortification through plant breeding and fortification of fertilizers to enhance nutritional value. As an integral part of the food system, the agricultural sector plays an important role in ensuring that there are enough nutrients in agricultural systems to meet nutritional needs of all people.

The Soil is the Source

A healthy agricultural industry is crucial for providing nutrients to humans.  Soil quality and soil fertility have a direct influence on the nutrient levels in food crops.  Soil improvements can increase productivity and allow for greater diversity of crops within the same cultivation area.  Agricultural tools, such as micronutrient-enriched fertilizers, and farming systems designed to meet nutritional needs should be used as sustainable strategies to reduce malnutrition.

In general, well-nourished food crops grown on fertile soils contain more vitamins and micronutrients than nutrient-stressed crops grown on infertile soils.  Soil micronutrient status, cropping systems, variety selection (i.e., plant breeding) for micronutrient-dense crops (e.g., biofortification), fertilization practices, some soil amendments and livestock and aquiculture production are important factors that impact the nutrient output of these systems. (Welch, et al, 2013)

The Micronutrient Initiative 5th Global Conference will examine the important role that the agricultural sector has to play in food systems and their impact on micronutrients and micronutrient status.

Topics include:

  • Nutrition-sensitive agriculture
  • Climate change and the effect on vitamin and mineral supplies of food systems
  • Biofortification case studies
  • Nutrient intakes in rural areas
  • Urban food systems, agriculture, and nutrition of the urban poor
  • Food price, trade, and agricultural investment policies

Micronutrients are nutrients that your body needs in very tiny amounts and they play a very critical role in a lot of processes in the human body. Traditionally these were vitamins and minerals; importantly vitamin A, zinc, iodine, iron and folate.  More and more, we are coming to realize that the body also needs in other nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids in small amounts as well for health and development that you could also include in the group of micronutrients.

Aquaculture is a major part of the food system; global seafood consumption has more than doubled in the past 50 years.  Fish and seafood are key sources of omega 3 fatty acids, in addition to iron and other nutrients. Sea plants are rich in iodine.

The Micronutrient Forum 5th Global Conference will explore the seafood and aquaculture as part of food and nutrition security.

Globally, food manufacturing industries are valued at more than $2 trillion USD and consist of more than 400,000 businesses, from large multi-national corporations to family-owned businesses to small-scale cooperatives. Those industries could increase their products’ overall nutritional content through fortification – the process of adding vitamins and/or minerals to foods. Fortification has a positive effect on the health, well-being and productivity of an individual, a community, even an entire country.

In addition to salt iodization, which is a global fortification success story, numerous staple foods present tremendous opportunities for providing micronutrients to large populations. Some of the myriad of food products being fortified include different flours, rice, cooking staples such as sugar and oil, processed foods such as biscuits, and condiments such as soy and fish sauces.

Policy, appropriate technology, regulation and creating demand are all important factors for food fortification to be successful.

The Micronutrient Forum is pleased to be co-located with the Second Global Summit on Food Fortification, March 21-23, 2019, co-hosted with GAIN and HarvestPlus.

Topics include:

  • Small-scale fortification case studies
  • Public-private sector engagements for improved diets of children and adolescents
  • Understanding demand-side influences: Education, advertising, convenience and more
  • Advances in large-scale fortification
  • Unlocking commercial investment in nutritious food value chains

Where most of us meet the food system is at the market. In shops, grocery stores, local food stalls, weekly markets, the act of choosing where to shop and what to buy makes an impact on the food system. What products food distributors, small vendors and urban and rural markets have available for families makes an impact on their nutritional status. Having fortified foods on the shelves of supermarkets, growing and selling biofortified crops and having healthy and nutritious food available to shoppers are important roles that markets play in food systems.

Topics include:

  • Leveraging supermarkets in urban areas to do more for good nutrition
  • Post-harvest loss actions to improve and conserve micronutrients
  • Dietary Patterns and Nutrient Intakes in Urban Areas
  • Large-scale companies: how to deliver sustainable nutritional impact at scale by bringing more nutritional products to low income consumers?

Cooking is about more than just feeding ourselves and our families. What we cook reflects our culture, our relationships and can even reflect the wage gap in society. Cooking and preparing foods can also result in nutrient loss. Cooking can also make some nutrients more absorbable.

Where do micronutrients really matter? In the home, for babies, children, youth and adults. Good nutrition, including micronutrient nutrition, means better health for the whole family, improved performance at school, increased productivity for working adults, illness prevention at all ages. Families must have the knowledge and support they need for optimal micronutrient intake. Where there are population-wide micronutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin A deficiency, supplementation programs must meet families’ needs to be successful and be integrated with other important health services, such as vaccinations and antenatal care, and food systems at the family level, including the early years,

Topics include:

  • Supplementation programs as part of health systems
  • The complex relationships among micronutrients, household environmental factors, and gut function
  • Integrated infant and young child feeding (IYCF) and home fortification programs
  • Vitamin D & Calcium supplementation in pregnancy