The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has decided to prepare a road map for food fortification in India in consultation with state governments and other stakeholders.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has approved the Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme on Fortification of Rice & its distribution through Public Distribution System.
It has also extended financial assistance up to 90% in the North-Eastern, Hilly and Island States and up to 75% in case of the rest of the States.
Food fortification standards:
Fortification is a complementary strategy to fight malnutrition under which key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, vitamins A & D are added to staple foods such as rice, wheat, oil, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content.
The Nutrient requirements and recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for all age groups of the population including children are set and revised periodically by the National Institute of Nutrition – Indian Council of Medical Research.
The requirement of nutrients in children varies with the age, gender and nutritional status of the children.
Significance of food fortification:
India is 103 out of 119 countries on Global Hunger Index, 2017. Over 70 percent of India’s population still consumes less than 50 percent of RDA for micronutrients.
One third of about two billion people who are suffering from vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies globally, are in India.
India has a very high incidence of micronutrient deficiency diseases like anaemia, vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency disorder etc.
Status of Fortified Ration in India
Fortification of iodised salt with iron, as double fortified salt (DFS), is a complementary strategy followed to address widespread anaemia in the country.
FSSAI has released the standards for fortification of salt with iron and iodine and enlisted two formulations-
Ferrous Sulphate (FS) with stabilizer Sodium Hexametaphosphate (SHMP) to prevent reaction between iodine and iron and
Ferrous Fumarate encapsulated by soya stearin (EFF) to prevent interaction between iodine and iron.
The key central ministries, like the Ministry of Women and Child Development have mandated the use of Fortified Edible Oil, Double Fortified Salt and Fortified Wheat Flour in Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) respectively.
Further, Government of India has also advised all States/UTs especially those States/UTs that are distributing wheat flour through Public Distribution System (PDS), to distribute fortified wheat flour through PDS.
Fortification and FSSAI:
FSSAI had issued the standards for fortification of five staples, namely, wheat flour, rice, milk, oil, and double fortified salt.
In order to promote and differentiate between regular products and fortified products, a “+F” logo has been developed by FSSAI
This will help increase consumer awareness and assist consumers in making healthier food choices.
The square around the +F represents completeness. The plus sign is about adding extra nutrition via vitamins and minerals to the daily nutrition requirements. The ring illustrates the ring of good health, protection for an active and healthy life.
Challenges and way ahead:
Supply chain logistics for providing fortified rice in the safety net programmes, especially TPDS, needs to be addressed at a state level.
Revision of the financial norms to absorb the incremental cost of fortification, so that states are able to include fortified rice in the safety net programmes.
Alignment of supply and demand is needed. Production of fortified pre-mixed material needs to be scaled up.
Currently, most states provide wheat grain and not wheat flour in PDS. Wheat flour has limited shelf life of 2 to 4 months; therefore, supply chain and storage infrastructure will require strengthening.
Mandatory fortification of wheat flour may be introduced in all the safety net programmes – ICDS, MDM, and PDS in phases two years.
Edible oil is an ideal staple for fortification with near universal penetration. It is recommended that all edible oil sold in packaged form for consumption at household level should be mandatorily fortified.