Focus on Quality in Food Aid  
Micronutrient Compliance Review

SUSTAINís 2001 Micronutrient Compliance Review, commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), assesses manufacturer compliance with new government standards for fortification of food aid commodities distributed under the Food for Peace program (Public Law 480, Title II). A key objective of the Food for Peace program is to combat malnutrition and its causes, and thus improve health among vulnerable groups.

An earlier study, the Micronutrient Assessment Project, documented significant variation in the vitamin content of fortified P.L. 480 food aid commodities as they left some manufacturing plants. As a result, the government issued new standards for micronutrient fortification and quality assurance (sampling and testing) requirements. The Micronutrient Compliance Review assessed compliance by U.S. producers with the new standards and requirements.

The assessment demonstrated that industry had made significant strides in implementing systems upgrades to comply with the new requirements. A marked improvement was found in micronutrient content of fortified P.L. 480 food aid commodities, particularly wheat flour and bulgur. Commodity producers recognized the need to assure quality in their products, and all producers were routinely testing production lots for the micronutrients used as indicators of appropriate addition levels: vitamin A for vitamin premixes and iron for mineral premixes. However, while micronutrient levels met or exceeded standards, the uniformity of enrichment (the variation from lot to lot in a particular commodity production run), had not sufficiently improved. It was suggested that process variability could be improved with better feeders and mixers. Cereal processors and premix suppliers were also urged to cooperate to continue to improve premix quality and control.

Several recommendations were made for strengthening government quality assurance systems for food aid products. These included monitoring and auditing of micronutrient suppliers and of analytical labs conducting micronutrient assays, standardized plant sampling procedures, and clarification of whether and how the government should conduct independent monitoring and verification of micronutrient levels.

Micronutrient losses during meal preparation continued to compromise the nutritional value of P.L. 480 commodities. Thus, use of more heat stabile forms of vitamins A and C were recommended. Investigation of precooked cereals to reduce vitamin loss during meal preparation was also suggested.

Project related publications include: