Swedish push for mandatory Vitamin D fortification for more products
Currently in Sweden, all milk and margarine must have Vitamin D added. The NFA has proposed expanding this to include yoghurt, lactose-free milk alternatives, oat milk, cooking oil, butter and soured milk.
The NFA also wants to increase the amount of Vitamin D added to milk from the current 3.85 – 5 micrograms per litre to 10 micrograms per litre.
Australian position on Vitamin D fortification of foods
In Australia, Vitamin D fortification is required for margarine and edible oil spreads. The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code also permits the addition of Vitamin D to dried milks, modified milks and skim milk, cheese and cheese products, yoghurts, dairy desserts, butter, and beverages derived from legumes or cereals.
Health concerns on Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is largely absorbed into the body by sunlight which causes problems in Sweden due to low sunlight levels in winter months.
The vitamin helps the body retain calcium and to create stronger bones, assisting in preventing osteoporosis. Increasing evidence shows that lacking in the vitamin can create a higher risk of Type 1 Diabetes and breast, colon and prostate cancer.
Osteoporosis Australia believe that 30 per cent of Australian adults currently have either a mild, moderate or severe Vitamin D deficiency.
Mandatory fortification – the best approach?
Mandatory fortification of food products in Australia has raised questions regarding the effects on population groups who do not suffer from low levels of the nutrient. For example, the mandatory fortification of folic acid in bread as an attempt to reduce the incidence of neural tube birth defects and the effects on the wider population consuming the products.
Further, it has been questioned whether general fortification is the most effective public health strategy or whether a free supplement would form a more effective solution, especially if fortified food items may not form part of the regular diet of some high-risk consumers.
Toxicity can occur from too much Vitamin D consumption, leading to nausea, vomiting, weakness and kidney problems. However, this usually only occurs from overconsumption of Vitamin tablets. Consumption through fortified foods has a low risk of toxicity due to low dosage amounts.
Vitamin D consumption in Sweden
The NFA in Sweden conducted a study in 2011 that found 67 per cent of the country was not receiving enough Vitamin D.
Research conducted in 2013 independent from the NFA discovered that only 3 out of 31 women in Sweden studied were receiving enough Vitamin D solely through food alone.
The NFA is also encouraging Swedish residents to consume more foods naturally high in Vitamin D such as fish.
The Swedish proposal is now open for comments until 5 June 2015.