Posted April 25th, 2018 by Carolyn Farrell

Professor Levente Diosady receives Engineers Canada’s highest honour

  • Professor Levente Diosady (ChemE) has led the development of techniques for fortifying salt with iron and iodine to prevent micronutrient deficiency diseases, which affect over two billion people worldwide. (Credit: Roberta Baker).

    Professor Levente Diosady (ChemE) has led the development of techniques for fortifying salt with iron and iodine to prevent micronutrient deficiency diseases, which affect over two billion people worldwide. He is being honoured with Engineers Canada's Gold Medal Award for 2018. (Credit: Roberta Baker)

Professor Levente Diosady (ChemE) has received the 2018 Engineers Canada Gold Medal Award, the organization’s highest honour, recognizing exceptional individual achievement and distinction in engineering. A world-renowned food engineer, Diosady has spent much of his career developing techniques for fortifying staple foods with micronutrients to improve human health.

Over the past 15 years, Diosady has led the development of techniques for fortifying salt with iron and iodine to prevent micronutrient deficiency diseases, which affect over two billion people worldwide. While it has long been a widespread practice to fortify salt with iodine, double-fortification was seen as impossible, as iodine is lost after the addition of iron.

Diosady eventually solved this problem through microencapsulation, coating the iron particles with a barrier of vegetable fat. In a trial involving more than 3 million children in India, some one million children were cured of anemia by simply replacing the salt used in preparing school lunches with Diosady’s double fortified salt. This salt is now being distributed to more than 60 million people in India.

Diosady is developing similar microencapsulation technologies for vitamin B1, B9, B12 and zinc fortification of salt, as well as vitamin A fortification of sugar, oil and rice. These technologies have the potential for enormous impact on global health: vitamin A deficiency affects at least 100 million children worldwide and often leads to blindness, while B12 deficiencies can lead to abnormal brain development. Diosady is also working on iron fortification of tea, which could significantly reduce the death toll due to low iron in mothers and infants at childbirth — currently at around 100,000 annually.

Diosady is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Chemical Institute of Canada, Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology, American Oil Chemists Society, International Academy of Food Science and Technology, Hungarian Academy of Engineering, Canadian Academy of Engineering, and Engineers Canada. In 2010 he was inducted into the Order of Ontario.

“Professor Levente Diosady is an outstanding example of the tremendous global impact made by U of T engineers” said Dean Cristina Amon. “His research has improved both the health and the quality of life for millions of people around the world. I am delighted that he has been recognized for his extraordinary contributions with one of Canada’s most prestigious engineering awards.”