Fortifying baladi bread in Egypt: reaching more than 50 million people through the subsidy program.
BACKGROUND: Micronutrient deficiencies, especially iron-deficiency anemia, are a public health problem in Egypt, where anemia rates almost doubled in the years from 2000 to 2005. In 2008, the Government of Egypt began implementation of a 5-year national program to fortify with iron and folic acid the wheat flour used in baking subsidized baladi bread, the staple food consumed by a majority of low- income groups.
OBJECTIVE: To project the achievements of this national Wheat Flour Fortification Program.
METHODS: This paper describes the program, estimates the production of fortified flour and consumption of fortified bread, and identifies program challenges and sustainability issues.
RESULTS: Through the national Wheat Flour Fortification Program, ferrous sulfate and folic acid are now added to all wheat flour produced under the national Food Subsidy Program. Up to 50 million Egyptians nationwide are now consuming quality-assured fortified baladi bread on a daily basis. In 2011, 6.5 million MT of fortified wheat flour was produced by 143 participating public- and private-sector mills. Political changes in Egypt in 2011 did not seem to affect the program; the new leadership in the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade remains committed to fortification of wheat flour.
CONCLUSIONS: The daily intake of approximately 12 mg of iron and 600 microg of folic acid through the consumption of baladi bread suggests that the impact of the program on the prevention and reduction of iron and folate deficiencies among the Egyptian population could be significant; the results of an end-line survey are pending.