China is pushing forward a nationwide trial on fortified food, in a bid to improve the health of its citizens, reports the China Daily.

"About 30,000 people from the country's western region have used fortified flour for two years," said Yu Xiaodong, director of the Public Nutrition and Development Centre under the National Development and Reform Commission. He said it had improved diets.
This experience will be promoted throughout the country, he added.

Talking at the ongoing International Forum on Chinese Public Nutrition, he said fortified oil and rice have also been introduced across the country.

Fortified food refers to food with nutrients added, such as vitamins, calcium and iron.

Yu said the nutrition programme is expected to be included in the key projects for the country's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10). A series of rules and regulations, such as nutrition rules and production standards for fortified flour, will come into effect, he added.

The intake of some nutrients, such as fat, protein and calories are often excessive, but some other nutrients, such as vitamins, are lacking in some diets, according to the forum.

At the moment there are three ways to improve public nutrition - a balanced diet, food fortification and nutritional supplements.

However, due to China's massive population and its unbalanced economic development, food fortification is thought to be the best way of improving public nutrition in a short period of time.

China started fortifying food in 2002, while developed countries such as the United States have more than 50 years of such experience.

"Fortified foods do not sell well, as the public still knows little about it," Yu said.

Huo Junsheng, a professor with the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed out some of the difficulties faced by the nutrition programme.

"For example, there are at least 50,000 plants producing flour in China. The output of the top 100 manufacturers only accounts for 20 per cent of the country's total output. Furthermore, the technical levels of these plants vary greatly, which hinders the promulgation of manufacturing standards," he said.