Iron and ascorbic Acid: proposed fortification levels and recommended iron compounds

J Nutr. 2003 Sep;133(9):2978S-84S. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.9.2978S.


An adequate supply of dietary iron during the 1st 24 mo of life is essential for preventing iron deficiency with its attendant negative effects on mental, motor and emotional development as well as later cognitive performance. Iron reserves and the small amount of highly bioavailable iron in human milk are adequate to satisfy the iron requirements of breast-fed infants of adequate birth weight for the 1st 6 mo of life. Thereafter, complementary foods, iron supplements or both are needed to meet this requirement. Complementary foods should not displace the consumption of human milk. The quantities eaten, particularly by younger infants, may therefore be quite small. As a consequence it is essential that the iron be supplied in a highly bioavailable form. This can be achieved by fortifying complementary foods with ferrous sulfate and ascorbic acid provided that the ascorbic acid is not lost during storage or meal preparation. Suggested fortification levels for ferrous sulfate and ascorbic acid for some types of complementary foods are given. The use of ferrous fumarate or an elemental iron powder instead of ferrous sulfate has not been evaluated adequately. There is a need to develop alternative strategies for improving iron bioavailability in complementary foods because it may not be possible to preserve ascorbic acid activity in many of them.

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Diet
  • Food, Fortified*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Iron / administration & dosage*
  • Iron Compounds / administration & dosage*
  • Nutrition Policy*


  • Iron Compounds
  • Iron
  • Ascorbic Acid