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Enriching White Flour

At a meeting of the Council on Foods and Nutrition of the American Medical Association in 1938, Dr. Russell Wilder proposed that the American milling industry add thiamine to white flour. The council agreed and in 1939 it announced the initial recommendations for flour enrichment. This stimulated General Mills, Inc., to produce a white flour with some of its micronutrients restored.

When a new roller milling process was introduced in America in 1870, it sparked a movement toward improving the nutritional quality of white floor. Although the new process yielded a more appealing, better-textured flour, physicians and nutritionists were concerned that it removed nutritional elements from the wheat grain. The synthesis of thiamine helped stimulate greater interest in fortifying wheat four. From his nutrition and metabolic work at Mayo, Dr. Wilder understood the benefits of fortified flour. He became a proponent of white flour enrichment and was appointed the first chairman of the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council in 1940. The group played a key role in developing nutritional standards for white flour.

Dr. Wilder enlisted the help of Mayo colleagues to define which nutrients needed to be restored in flour. Between 1939 and 1942, they worked together to conduct a series of studies on thiamine deficiency and human requirements, along with those of riboflavin. Their work, along with that of others, helped lead to orders between 1941 and 1943 for the enrichment of flour and bread with thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, calcium and vitamin D.

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