Wheat Flour: Enrich or Not Enrich?
The Armenian society has welcomed the Government’s bill on the wheat flour enrichment with contradicting opinions. The Ministry of Health describes the enrichment of high quality flour with premixes, namely iron and folic acid, as a positive step since it, according to the ministry experts, aims to prevent anemia among certain society groups.

Those who oppose the initiative point out the possible danger to the public health the enrichment may bring about. The flour enrichment may cause excess of folic acid and iron in the organism and endanger human lives.  

Currently, 82 countries in the world have laws regarding enrichment of at least one species of corn. The Health Ministry experts stress “the international positive practice” as a pro argument for the adoption of the law. 

“In a lot of developed countries, for example USA, flour enrichment is compulsory. The international statistics shows there is only positive outcome. Wheat contains folic acid and nutrients necessary for a human organism which is lost while being grinded. The law adoption will lead to the restoration of what is lost in mills not enriching flour with chemicals,” said Karine Saribekyan, head of the Mother and Children’s Department at the Health Ministry.

The Media Center initiated panel discussion on the bill of flour enrichment was attended by Hrayr Aslanyan, head of the Public Health Department at the Health Ministry; Karine Saribekyan, head of the Mother and Children’s Department at the Health Ministry; Smbat Daghbashyan, head of the Hematology Center after prof. R. Yolyan; Babken Pipoyan, head of 'Informed and Protected Consumer' NGO; Ashot Karapetyan, biophysics specialist; Susanna Baghdasaryan, biochemistry specialist; and Eduard Zorikyan, writer, song writer.

Ashot Karapetyan disagreed with Karine Saribekyan and stressed the inappropriateness of flour enrichment in Armenia. Referring to the statistics provided by the World Health Organization, the panelist said the law adoption is proper when the prevalence of anemia amounts 20-40% among the population.

“Presently, there is no precise statistics regarding the prevalence of anemia in Armenia. Some scrappy data involving only target groups are available, for example pregnant women but it is improper to carry out flour enrichment merely based on these data. The decision should be made upon complete data embracing the whole population,” Karapetyan said. He, at the same time, welcomed Karine Saribekyan’s proposal to participate in the upcoming survey.

Babken Pipoyan believes it important to conduct joint and constructive survey activities “to exclude unclarified questions among people.” Flour fortification is one of the possible solutions, Pipoyan believes. “It is necessary to search for other solutions. Flour fortification is applied if there is a high risk of anemia in the country. Yet, for Armenia we do not have exact survey results,” he said.

The high poverty rate in Armenia, Hrayr Alsanyan said, is among the reasons for flour enrichment. According to official statistics, the poverty rate in Armenia makes 35%. “Our ration which lacks iron-rich food does not change. Thus, the Government has initiated the flour enrichment project. It is a health project of vital importance,” the speaker added.

By the end of the discussion the panelists appeared unwavering although many of them agreed to take part in a study to determine the anemia prevalence in Armenia. 

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, Editor-Coordinator

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