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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Iron in Food

BfR FAQs, 1 December 2008

Iron is an essential trace element that has to be absorbed from food. It is mainly found in meat although some kinds of fruit, vegetables, pulses and cereals are also excellent sources of iron. The human body needs iron to form haemoglobin and for oxygen transport. The iron status of the German population is good. However, children, adolescents during their growth phase, pregnant women and infants are risk groups for insufficient dietary intake. By contrast, some other groups in the population take in far more iron than is needed to cover their requirements.

For some years now a number of breakfast cereals have been fortified with iron in Germany. Some iron-containing food supplements are also for sale. As current scientific knowledge indicates that a persistently high intake of iron increases the risk of heart disease and cancer, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) advises against the fortification of foods with iron. Iron-containing food supplements should only be taken in the case of elevated iron requirements under medical supervision.



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