Malnutrition is a pressing issue in the Philippines, marked by prevalent micronutrient deficiencies, particularly among women, children and adolescent girls. Anaemia poses a significant public health challenge, affecting 23% of pregnant women, 13.4% of children under five and 13% of lactating women across the country. Moreover, 15.5% of children under five suffer from vitamin A deficiency, putting them at greater risk of disease and early death. The Expanded National Nutrition Survey 2018-19 indicated that household dietary intake of essential micronutrients falls below recommended levels in the region.
Addressing these inadequacies is possible through adequate food fortification efforts. In 2000, the Government of the Philippines mandated that all edible flour, oil, rice and salt be fortified with vitamin A and iron. Despite this, existing gaps must be tackled to enhance the overall health and wellbeing of the population. The current national standard for wheat flour fortification lacks the inclusion of folic acid and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended bioavailable form of iron, leading to a rise in preventable neural tube defects. Additionally, the possible termination of the ongoing mandatory salt iodization legislation poses a threat to the country’s universal salt iodization program, putting the population at an increased risk of iodine deficiency disorders.