Micronutrients as food additives
Micronutrients have many functions in the human organism. For example, they are needed to make macro- molecules or as cofactors for essential enzymatic reactions. Micronutrient functions are based on their bioche- mical properties and are utilized in food technology. Many industrially processed foods contain additives that are in fact natural or nature-identical micro- nutrients. Their purpose is to improve the consistency of the food and to give it certain characteristics. Additives are selected based on their primary function in the finished food product. Micronutrients are usually used as antioxidants – to prevent oxidative processes that impair food quality – and as coloring agents to compensate for color lost during proces- sing. Additives are generally labeled with E numbers. The use of additives in food is only permitted if it is technologically necessary, if they have been investigated and found to be harmless, and have passed inspection by the food safety authorities.
The economic cost of malnutrition
Chronic undernutrition and micro- nutrient deficiencies are prevalent across the developing world. In ad- dition to its substantial human costs, undernutrition has lifelong economic consequences. However, there are feasible solutions to many dimensions of undernutrition, and fighting undernutrition has considerable economic benefits – most notably in terms of improving schooling, cognitive skills and economic productivity. Spending that reduces both chro- nic undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies is an excel- lent investment in economic terms, and is one of the smartest ways to spend global aid dollars.
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