Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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December 14, 2003

Fortification of foods - an EU proposal

Today, Rick Mitchell, correspondent to the World Food Regulation Review/International Food Safety News asked me for a comment about the recent European Commission Proposal for the fortification of foods. I gave my honest opinion - not really flattering for the Eurocracy, that bueraucratic apparatus that seeks to determine every minute detail of our lives.

Just as the food supplements directive is set to eliminate products from the market for no good reason other than their being an unwelcome competition to pharmaceutical interests, this new proposal for the fortification of foods is telling us that we don't need to worry about the quality of what we eat. The "right" chemical substances are being added back into our food - only, our health gets worse and worse.

Food fortification is operated by adding synthetic vitamins to the foods we have previously robbed of their vital components by a variety of actions. There is "chemical agriculture" - chemical fertilizers and intensive agriculture actually impoverish our food crops of nutrients. But there is also food processing, which eliminates naturally occurring vital substances from salt and sugar as well as rice and flower in the name of "refinement".

For the European Union, the food fortification proposal and the directive that will follow, are steps on the way to constructing an EU internal market where barriers to trade are progressively eliminated. They are also a gift to industry. The powerful food industry has been complaining that it does not have adequate market access to some of the European countries, as fortified foods are not allowed in some and are tightly controlled in others. So the food fortification directive is in an "open sesame" to the European market place for the large pharmaceutical and the food conglomerates, turning a regulatory jungle into a nice, green pasture.

Looking at the annex to the food fortification proposal, it is easy to see that the substances allowed without question to be added to foods are those synthetic forms of vitamins and those inorganic salts of minerals that have traditionally been produced and sold by the pharmaceutical industry. Food fortification opens up market prospects that were so far unheard of. Vitamins added to foods will outsell those put in tablets by orders of magnitude.

Like the supplements directive, which was passed in 2002, the fortification directive will turn out to be a big boon to the chemical/pharmaceutical giants, but will have little to do with either food quality or consumer choice.

From a consumer's point of view it would seem preferable if food was good and wholesome because it was produced and processed with particular attention. The addition of isolated chemical compounds may help a bad food become less bad, but it will not make a good food out of white flour bakery or sugar coated corn flakes.

Food "fortification" really sends a wrong message. It appears to say that it's quite ok to ruin our foods as long as we then add a few isolated chemical substances that got lost in the process. Just like in pharmaceutical medicine, we are doctoring a symptom here, instead of finding the cause of the malaise. Agriculture, if adhering to certain principles, CAN produce healthy and nutritious foods. Food processing does not have to remove vital nutrients. Unfortunately, there are strong economic incentives to do otherwise - industrial food production and chemical/pharmaceutical intervention are immensely profitable.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Sunday December 14 2003
updated on Tuesday December 21 2010

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