Almost 190 million preschool-age children — especially those from low-income populations in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia — suffer from vitamin A deficiency. It is a crucial nutrient for strengthening our body’s immune system but also our vision, and the lack of it can cause blindness and increase the risk of mortality from childhood diseases, such as measles and gastroenteritis. As a result, a large number of industrial players are considering ways to enhance vitamin A in staple foods consumed by most populations in these regions, meaning that people are not required to change their eating habits.
This approach has been successfully demonstrated with iodine salts, which have helped to prevent a number of growth-related problems and developmental disabilities since 1952. Yet, there is a greater challenge with vitamin A. This micronutrient, which is sensitive to heat, light, oxidation, and moisture, can be lost during cooking or storage – meaning it cannot be simply added to many foods.
The number one challenge: stabilising vitamin A through encapsulation
The solution was discovered when a team of academic researchers found a way to encapsulate vitamin A to prevent it from being degraded during storage and cooking.(1) With a total of $5 million provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PFH developed a commercialization plan for the product and in July 2020 formed a relationship with LIS. The goal of this work is to develop a scalable, stable form of vitamin A, enabling it to be incorporated into bouillon. Why a bouillon cube? Consumed by 80% of people in sub-Saharan Africa, this condiment can be supplied to a majority of the population facing this public health issue.
One of LIS by Lesaffre’s areas of expertise is to support its customer companies in the food ingredient industry in the scale-up of laboratory-developed products to industrial production levels.
The Powder Studio™ of LIS by Lesaffre is developing encapsulated vitamin A for the bouillon cube of the future
The Powder Studio™, LIS’ R&D centre, plays a central role in the partnership signed in July 2020 between LIS and PFH. But in order to achieve transition from lab development to industrial production levels, the co-development laboratory first has to optimise the vitamin A formulation, drawing on its valuable expertise in drying, encapsulation and powder characterisation.
Once the formulation is designed, the LIS France and LIS Polska entities can support scale-up from pilot to industrial level. This means that Particles for Humanity will be able to save many lives and contribute to the healthy growth of millions of children.