Frequently Asked Questions

1.       Is the vitamin A natural? Where does the vitamin A in the oil come from?

Vitamin A occurs naturally in foods in two forms: animal sources which contain retinol (liver, fish, dairy) and plant sources containing carotenoids (red peppers, pumpkin, carrots). Both of these are converted to the active form, retinal in the body.

It is difficult and expensive to extract vitamin A from food sources to use for food fortification, so synthetic retinol, which is identical with natural retinol, is produced in a factory and is then mixed with the oil. This is standard practice all over the world and for all major brands of oils and margarines in Tanzania, such as Kori oil, Safi oil and Blue Band margarine who also fortify their products with vitamin A.  

2.       Why do they only put in vitamin A and not other nutrients?

First, not all nutrients can be added to oil. Water soluble vitamins, like vitamins B and C, are not appropriate for oil fortification. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient and as a result can be used to fortify oil, margarine and certain dairy products.

Second, while all nutrients are important to consume through a balanced diet, some nutrients have significant public health importance, but are not adequately provided for through diet alone. This is true for vitamin A - vitamin A deficiency is a significant problem in Tanzania, most seriously affecting young children, women of reproductive age, and pregnant women. Manyara and Shinyanga have some of the highest prevalence of vitamin A deficiency in children in Tanzania.

For children, vitamin A is necessary to support growth and combat infections. Severe vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness, anemia and weakened resistance to infections. For women, vitamin A is essential for fetal development and maternal eye health.

3.       Why do you put it in oil and not something else? (like soda, flour, sugar, etc.)

As vitamin A is fat soluble, it can be uniformly distributed in oil. The stability of vitamin A is greater in oils and fats, and the oil also facilitates the absorption of vitamin A by the body. Cooking oil is used almost universally, making it a superb vehicle for improving access to vitamins through fortification

4.       Does the vitamin A cook off?

Cooking losses of vitamin A will average up to 40 %, but this has been taken into consideration when the vitamin A is mixed in the oil. Higher losses can occur with extended exposure to air and light. It is recommended to store the oil in a closed, opaque container when not in use.

5.       Does the vitamin A change taste?

Vitamin A does not change the taste of the oil. In a pilot study, focus groups have consistently reported high satisfaction with the oil’s flavor

6.       Does the vitamin A change color of the oil?

The vitamin A does change the color of the oil.

7.      What are other examples of fortified foods?
Several major oil and flour products are already fortified centrally in Tanzania. Kori oil, Freshii, Safi Oil and Blue Band are all fortified with vitamin A. Flours such as Nyati flour and Azania flour are fortified with iron. Micronutrient powder (Vituribishi Huboresha Chakula) is also widely available and contains a mix of micronutrients that can be added to food.

8.       What are other foods with vitamin A?

In addition to the fortified oils above, there are both plant and animal sources rich in vitamin A. Liver, fish, yogurt and other dairy products are good animal sources of vitamin A, while orange/yellow and dark green vegetables, such as orange-fleshed sweet potato, papaya, carrots, pumpkin and spinach are good plant sources of vitamin A

9.      My kids are not blind, I don't see stunting, why do I need vitamin A?
Night blindness is a result of severe deficiency, but even low levels of deficiencies have adverse effects, such as a greater susceptibility to infections. These deficiencies in vitamin A, as well as that of other micronutrients often go unnoticed.  In other words, your child may have a deficiency but you will not be able to visually see the problem.  We sometimes call this issue “hidden hunger”.  In addition to deficiencies, it is also important to consider prevention.  Ensuring that your child consumes enough vitamin A (and other essential micronutrients) everyday will play an important role to prevent deficiencies from occurring.     

10.   I'm old with no kids, why do I need vitamin A?

While young children and women of child bearing age generally have the highest requirements for vitamin A, it is important to note that Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient for both sexes and for all age groups.  Depending on your dietary habits you may not be getting enough vitamin A, in which case fortified oil will provide additional vitamin A.  Even in the event that you do consume vitamin A in your diet, there is no harm in consuming additional vitamin A from fortified oil.  

11.   Why is the oil produced in Babati and Singida, why not here? (Hanang, or Shinyanga)

This project is a pilot to assess the feasibility and nutritional impact of fortifying unrefined sunflower oil at small and medium enterprises outside of major cities. Small-scale oil fortification with virgin sunflower oil is innovative and needs to be proven. If the pilot is successful, we hope to expand this to other areas of Tanzania.

12.   Can I apply the cooking oil to my skin, like lotion?

It is not recommended that fortified cooking oil is applied to the skin. In principle the oil will not harm the skin, but this oil is specifically fortified for cooking purposes and it is better to use oils intended for the skin, on the skin.

13.   Does the vitamin A disappear when its next to the jiko while cooking?

Vitamin A degrades in direct sunlight and with exposure to air. It can be placed beside the jiko, provided the oil is covered/capped when it is not in use and that it kept in a sealed, opaque container, out of direct sunlight.

14.   My child received a high dose vitamin A supplement, why the need for fortified oil? 

High-dose vitamin A supplements help to boost vitamin A stores in the body to prevent vitamin A deficiency, but can wear off over time, especially for infants and young children who expend these stores rapidly. As a result, it is recommended that children consume fortified oil, in addition to vitamin A rich foods, to provide a steady intake of vitamin A.

15.   Is there any harm in consuming fortified oil if a child received a high dose vitamin A supplement?

 No, there is no chance of harm in consuming fortified oil if a child received a high dose vitamin A supplement. The dose vitamin A in oil is low and is meant to maintain vitamin A in the blood over time. It is

16.   The population consumes a lot of oil.  Is it possible to consume too much vitamin A from oil?

It is possible, but very uncommon for one to consume too much vitamin A from oil. One would have to consume a substantial amount of oil over a long period of time to approach the upper limit for vitamin A.

17.   Now that the oil is fortified should I be encourage to consume more?

It is recommended that you maintain the same amount of oil. While there is little risk in overdosing on vitamin A, excessive consumption of oil displaces other nutritious foods and can lead to health risks in its own right.