Food staples such as rice, refined sugar, cooking oil and wheat flour are to undergo a “mandatory fortification” with iron and vitamin A under the Republic Act 8976 passed this weekend. Others will experience a “voluntary” fortification.

The new law, introduced alongside campaigns by the National Food Fortification Program, aims to deal with a significant number of “public health problems,” combating iodine and vitamin A deficiency and reducing cases of anaemia by 20%. According to recent surveys, the average diet in the Philippines is largely deficient in iron, vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, protein and iodine, and the new program is encouraging food producers to fortify products in order to compensate for the loss of nutrients and optimise the health of high-risk groups such as children.

Properly fortified foods will carry the seal of the department of health in a bid to encourage consumers to select more nutritious food.