There is a high incidence of iron-deficiency anemia in the United States and throughout the world. The prevalence is high in adult women and infants because of their greater needs for iron. The typical human diet furnishes less than 6 mg iron per 1,000 kcal and does not meet the current recommended dietary allowances for critical groups because so much of the iron in whole, raw foodstuffs is removed in processing. Farm animals fare better because they receive fractions removed from human foods. A few livestock groups, notably baby pigs, do need supplemental iron.
The cereal enrichment program failed to alleviate human anemia because of reduced consumption of cereals and because poorly utilized sources of supplemental iron were employed. Ferric orthophosphate and sodium iron pyrophosphate were poorly utilized by chicks, rats, and humans. Ferrous sulfate was well utilized by each of the three species, while reduced iron was intermediate. The source of supplemental iron had more influence on bioavailability than did other diet components. It is recommended that the level of iron be increased in enriched cereals, that milk and other foods be fortified with iron, and that iron sources with good bioavailability be used in the fortification program.