Vitamin D is important for the absorption and metabolism of calcium, as well as for maintaining healthy bones and muscles. It's important but different parts of America have varying levels of it, and that is the main source, so we fortify products like milk with it.
In Denmark, the sun is absent for much of the year so people generally have too low a level, but are consumers actually interested in buying foods with added vitamin D?
Apparently not. A large chunk of the Danish public thinks being fortified makes a product less natural. It's easy to scoff at that because America leads the world in adult science literacy but a large chunk of America seems to have similar Shamanistic beliefs about food and science - and their ancestors a hundred years ago thought electricity was leaking out of empty light sockets and mutating them.
Scholars at the MAPP Centre at Aarhus University asked 1,263 Danes online and find that the population is divided in their attitudes to fortified foods. The majority are positive towards the possibility of adding vitamin D, but that does not mean that they would buy those products themselves. Though fortification was accepted elsewhere for decades, Danes prefer products that do not contain added vitamin D, mirroring the anti-vaccine beliefs that they are right for someone else but too risky for their own children.
"It's easy to say that you accept a product, but it's quite another to buy it. Danes are generally skeptical of fortified foods, and this is primarily because a food product that is enriched is a less natural product. When it also alleges to affect your health, this arouses skepticism," explains George Tsalis, Research Assistant at the Department of Management and one of the authors of the study.
Obviously this is problematic since vitamin D deficiency is associated with a variety of ailments such as depression, bone and muscle pain and even cancer. It is particularly critical to a number of population groups - particularly the elderly, people with dark skin and persons who get limited sun exposure.
Milk is ideal
In the new study, the researchers asked about consumers' general knowledge of vitamin D and perception of vitamin D enrichment, both on a general level and specifically in relation to selected products such as milk and bread, among others. In addition, the researchers investigated whether consumer perception of the fortified products depends, for example, on whether the packaging clearly states that vitamin D is added at the recommendation of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.
The results show that the Danish population's acceptance of food products with added vitamin D is primarily affected by three factors: Consumer attitudes towards vitamin D, the perception of the health benefits of vitamin D and who is in control of the enrichment.
Although it appeared that respondents were generally not willing to buy the enriched products, the scholars found that milk was the product that the consumers thought was most suitable for enrichment with vitamin D. This may be because vitamin-D-fortified milk has already been introduced in the Danish market, albeit without much success.
Two out of three respondents said that it was insufficient to mention in the list of ingredients that the product contains added Vitamin D. They want the addition of vitamin D clearly stated on the packaging.
So the pro-science community can lament that activists want to put warning labels on genetically modified foods, but Danes even want them on vitamins.