Down to Earth
Can fortification of staple food like rice and wheat end malnutrition in India? |
IN FEBRUARY, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (fssai) set up a scientific panel to finalise standards on food fortification. The standards are India’s latest attempt to combat the chronic problem of malnutrition, which is the reason close to 40 per cent children under five are stunted. The country also has poor adolescent and maternal health, which is symptomatic of the worrying malnutrition levels. Over 55 per cent women in the reproductive age of 15-49 years and almost 50 per cent of adolescent girls are anaemic, says the ‘India Health Report: Nutrition 2015’ by research consortium Transform Nutrition.
The 11-member panel comes just four months after fssai released the draft Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Food) Regulations, which propose to fortify six staple food items (salt, vegetable oil, milk, wheat flour, refined flour and rice) with vitamins A, D, B12 and folic acid, and minerals such as iron and iodine (see ‘Plans and challenges’, p21). Micronutrients such as zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B6 and Niacin can also be used for fortification of wheat flour, refined flour and rice, say the regulations, which were uploaded on fssai website for receiving comments from the public.
The scientific panel will look into the comments. It will also identify nutritional gaps in the Indian diet and review the standards for all food that can be fortified.
fssai has also set up the Food Fortification Resource Centre to sensitise states about fortification, provide technical support, especially to small-scale food manufacturers, and educate people about fortified foods.