Why Fortification is necessary in India
Food Science Nutrition & Health Processing & Value Addition

Food Fortification: A step towards ‘Malnutrition free India’

Scooping my thoughts on the news I came across recent past events associated with National Nutrition Week early September, FSSAI’s new fortification guidelines 2018 , and also those alleged claims by  Swadeshi Jagaran Manch convener Ashwani Mahajan that Fortification is against cultural beliefs, necessitated me to dive into this topic, Food Fortification.

Food fortification Resource Centre (FFRC), a research and support centre supported  by Tata Trust promoting large scale fortification of foods across India, defines Fortification as the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as Iron, Iodine, Zinc, vitamin A & D to staple foods such as rice, wheat, oil, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content.

These fortified nutrients may or may not be originally present in the food before processing or that had lost during processing. Fortification can be seen as prime strategies for combating micronutrient malnutrition. The term “micronutrient” should be highlighted here because fortification effectively addresses those nutrients that are required in minute amounts (less than 100mg/day – vitamins and minerals).

The strategies for addressing micronutrient malnutrition are two fold. One, nutrition education and awareness on balanced diet by choosing diverse food groups. Second, disease control strategy addressing nutrition deficiency diseases by supplementation with nutraceuticals (under the “foods for special dietary use” category under FSSA, 2006).  It supplements the diet by increasing the total dietary intake like B-complex pills.

It’s not all New !

Fortification has been considered in a slew of measures ranging from National Development agenda aligned with Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) to State Government’s Safety Net Programme (SNP).

Fortification isn’t new, the mandatory iodization of salt from 2005 itself is an example to it. Now, Fortification has been considered in a slew of measures ranging from National Development agenda aligned with Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) to State Government’s Safety Net Programme (SNP). It addresses public health issues due to Iron Deficiency (Anemia), Iodine deficiency, vitamin A and vitamin D deficiency disorders.

Fortification is so far only voluntary in India with with 47% of packaged refined edible oil industry and 21 % of organised milk industry taking up fortification. Currently fortification plays a role in government programmes like ICDS, PDS, MDM schemes. A State Fortification Index (SFI) is also created to profile the states based on their performance. This will assist the states in picking the best measures for successful implementation models.  

For encouraging Food Business Operators (FBO) training programmes, technical support and capacity building measures are taken by Food Fortification Resource Center (FFRC). Directives are established for fortification of staples (like rice and wheat) at Pan India level. Implementation models for rice fortification using fortified rice kernel (FRK), during milling stage itself is found to be the most economical option. Awareness programmes are conducted by FSSAI for popularising the logo among consumers, and also for sensitising the potential FBO’s to take up fortification.

Why Fortification is necessary in India

 

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Regulating the Fortification

Fortification should be on right food. It might be absurd to fortify alcoholic beverages with vitamins or to claim junk foods and carbonated beverages as healthy by fortifying. So regulations should entertain foods that are staples such as Wheat flour, Maida, salt vegetable oil and milk. Further concerns such as random fortification leading to over or under fortification in consumer diet has to be addressed. Over dosage also leads to a toxicity threat. Sometimes food processors mislead consumers with false health claims. Therefore regulations constitute an inseparable part in fortification.

To achieve that, Food Safety and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has framed new regulations (2018) on fortification of foods. It mandates the Food Business Operators to comply with the provisions under it by January 1 , 2019. Few excerpts from the provisions are:

  1. Maximum and minimum dosage range is fixed so as to provide 30-50% of the daily requirement of nutrient.
  2. Added iron should be in bioavailable form.
  3. Only Plant sources to be used for Vitamin D.
  4. Vanaspathi fortification is excluded.

Thus, Fortification comes into play as a sustainable and effective way because it can reach nutrition deficient population through existing food delivery systems without requiring major changes in existing consumption pattern, Dietary diversification or supplementation.

Food fortification should not be seen as “Either / or” choices but rather as “Complementary strategies”. Fortification only bridges the gap between the need and actual consumption of required micronutrients through food. So, let us at least try to do away misconception with Food Fortification that is prerequisite for “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat” or Malnutrition free India.

Ms. Shobana is an FSSAI certified junior food analyst who is seeking for an opportunity to establish a role in food analysis. She considers herself forever a student, who is trying to be “Receptive” without prejudices.

Reference : FSSAI, NITI report on food fortification

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