A global health group Wednesday urged governments across Asia to enact laws against massive malnutrition that would require food producers to include vitamins and minerals in their products.
Lack of vitamins and minerals have left millions of Asians vulnerable to disease, and about one million children younger than five die annually because of this, the Flour Fortification Initiative (FFI) network said here.
Globally, an estimated 50,000 young women during pregnancy and child birth also perish and 200,000 cases of serious birth defects are recorded each year because of the problem, it said.
FFI coordinator Glen Maberly said previous experience showed food producers can help if they fortify foods with minerals.
"This ultimately means that governments need to put in place legislation to make it mandatory," he added.
Working closely with the UN Children's Fund, the FFI is a global lobby group pushing to make flour fortified with vitamins a standard practice among major producers.
Malnutrition can cost the global economy between 180 to 250 billion dollars in healthcare costs over the next decade, the group said.
In contrast, the total public investment needed to address the problem only comes to between four and five billion dollars, it said.
The group pointed out that birth defects had gone down in developed nations such as the United States, Canada and Chile where producers were required by law to inject vitamins and minerals into food.