Public health and nutrition experts have reiterated that Food Fortification is crucial for India to battle anaemia and micronutrient malnutrition.
Recent National Family Health Surveys (NHFS) show that the prevalence of anaemia among women aged 15-49 years increased from 49.7% in NFHS-4 to 57.2% in NFHS-5 Phase 1. The primary cause of anaemia is Iron deficiency, worsened by other nutritional deficiencies, especially Folic Acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, which are prevalent among Indians.
Studies show that micronutrient deficiency is not just closely linked with poor immunity and congenital disorders such as neural tube defects (NTDs), but also cognitive development, school concentration capacities and work output. Large-scale food fortification interventions have the ability to improve functional health outcomes and nutritional status of populations across India,” says Dr Sheila C Vir, senior nutrition specialist and Director, Public Health Nutrition and Development Centre, New Delhi.
Since rice plays a predominant role in Indian diets, making sure that each meal is nutrient-rich and diverse can be a mammoth task until conscious behaviour change is organically achieved in the entire population and access to micronutrient rich food items ensured.
Fortified rice kernels that resemble milled rice in appearance, taste, and texture and then blended with non-fortified rice at a ratio of 1:100, can therefore be a micronutrient-rich alternative which fits Indian diet preferences.
Like any food processing industry, stringent standards and regulations and continued monitoring of the effectiveness are required for the program's sustainability. The FSSAI has developed robust standards for rice fortification, and we are working with them on developing stringent monitoring processes as well,” says Dr H N Mishra, Head, Rice Fortification Project, Agricultural & Food Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur.