Foods with added vitamins and minerals may seem like a healthy option to supplement a diet but it turns out that the added nutrients can be harmful to consumers, especially young children, senior citizens and pregnant women.
A new report from the Environmental Working Group studied breakfast cereals and snack bars, two of the food categories that are frequently fortified and found that more than 140 of them are over-fortified to the point of causing harm to consumers.
Many cereals, snack bars and other foods tout that they’re fortified with vitamins and minerals but it turns out, adding that into food may be dangerous. The organization found that nearly half of kids 8 or younger consume potentially dangerous levels of vitamin A, zinc and niacin due to over-fortification.
The researchers fortified 1,550 cereals and 1,000 snack bars and found that 114 had 30 percent or more of the adult daily value for some vitamins and minerals which can cause liver damage, skeletal abnormalities, hair loss and more in kids.
“We need enough of these nutrients for good health but consuming too much can be harmful especially to young children, the elderly and pregnant women. Because of flawed government policies and food producers who fortify foods with extra nutrients in the hope of boosting sales, many American children today are getting excessive amounts of certain nutrients,” states a release announcing the report.
Too much vitamin A can lead to organ damage, specifically with the liver as well as hair loss and skeletal abnormalities. Too much zinc can impact red and white blood cells and hinder immune systems. With the elderly too much vitamin A can increase risk of osteoporosis and be a cause in hip fractures.
The research team says one big issue is that the federal nutrition labeling system is outdated and was calculated for adults and not children when it was designed in 1968.
While the Environmental Working Group (EWG) supports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) current efforts on gathering comments on proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts labels, it wants the FDA to require that the nutrition labels on products marketed to children display percent Daily Values specific to each age group, such as 1-to-3-year-olds and 4-to-8-year- olds.
The EWG recommends parents give children no more than 20-to-25 percent of the adult Daily Value for vitamin A, zinc and niacin in a single serving.
Until the FDA takes these steps, EWG recommends that parents give their children products with no more than 20-to-25 percent of the adult Daily Value for vitamin A, zinc and niacin in a single serving. In addition, parents should monitor their children’s intake of fortified foods especially if they give their children a daily multivitamin pill. EWG also recommends that pregnant women and older adults watch their intake of products fortified with vitamin A especially if they take a daily vitamin pill.