Hidden hunger refers to the often-invisible deficiencies of key vitamins and minerals (micronutrients), including iodine, folic acid, iron, and vitamin A. These micronutrients are necessary to sustain and improve the health and wealth of individuals and communities. Affecting over 2 billion people worldwide, micronutrient deficiencies (MNDs) are a major contributor to maternal and infant deaths, childhood physical and intellectual growth, immunity and resilience against health issues, educational attainment, work productivity, and tangible Gross Domestic Product (GDP) losses of up to 11 per cent annually.
Whilst food fortification is becoming increasingly widespread, it is estimated that only half of all foods that are claimed to be fortified actually contain micronutrients in amounts designed by regional standards. In addition, national food control monitoring systems lack the capacity to track non-compliance and respond accordingly. In the end, consumers are most affected, as the staple foods labelled as fortified often lack the micronutrients they claim to contain, breaking overall trust in the food system and minimizing the nutrition and health impacts that fortification programs attempt to solve.