Iron deficiency is widespread among young children and women of reproductive age, especially in less industrialized countries. It is partly induced by plant-based diets containing low levels of poorly bioavailable iron. The most effective technological approaches to combat iron deficiency in less industrialized countries include supplementation targeted to high risk groups combined with a national program of food fortification and dietary strategies designed to maximize the bioavailability of both the fortificant and the intrinsic food iron. Prerequisites for effective supplementation include an efficient and consistent supply, delivery, and consumption of a highly bioavailable iron supplement. Fortification relies less heavily on compliance and an organized health service but must be regulated by government to eliminate competition with unfortified products. To be effective, a combination of an iron fortificant and food vehicle must be selected which is safe, acceptable to and consumed by the target population, does not adversely effect the organoleptic qualities and shelf-life of the food vehicle, and provides iron in a stable, highly bioavailable form. Bioavailability of both the fortificant and the intrinsic food iron can be improved by adding enhancing factors, removing inhibitors such as phytate by enzymatic and non-enzymatic hydrolysis, and using 'protected' fortification compounds.