What is Fortification of Food?
- Fortification is the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A & D to staple foods such as rice, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content. These nutrients may or may not have been originally present in the food before processing.
- It is a cost-effective strategy for improving diets and for the prevention and control of micronutrient deficiencies.
- It can be carried out by food manufacturers, or by governments as a public health policy which aims to reduce the number of people with dietary deficiencies within a population.
Need for Food Fortification
- 70% of people in India do not consume enough micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
- According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5):
- 67 percent of children (6-59 months) are anaemic
- 57 percent women in the reproductive age group are anaemic
- every third child still suffers from chronic undernourishment, and every fifth child is acutely malnourished.
- Deficiency of micronutrients or micronutrient malnutrition, also known as “hidden hunger”, is a serious health risk.
- Those who are economically disadvantaged do not have access to safe and nutritious food. Others either do not consume a balanced diet or lack variety in the diet because of which they do not get adequate micronutrients.
- Often, there is considerable loss of nutrients during the processing of food. One of the strategies to address these problems is fortification of food.
Benefits of Food Fortification
- Since the nutrients are added to staple foods that are widely consumed, this is an excellent method to improve the health of a large section of the population, all at once.
- It does not require any changes in food habits and patterns of people. It is a socio-culturally acceptable way to deliver nutrients to people.
- It does not alter the characteristics of the food—the taste, the feel, the look.
- It can be implemented quickly as well as show results in improvement of health in a relatively short period of time.
- The Copenhagen Consensus (a conference of prominent economists) estimates that every 1 Rupee spent on fortification results in 9 Rupees in benefits to the economy. Thus it has a high benefit-to-cost ratio.
How does the government use food fortification in various schemes?
- In 2016, FSSAI operationalized the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016 for fortifying staples namely
- Wheat Flour and Rice with Iron, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid,
- Milk and Edible Oil with Vitamins A and D and
- Double Fortified Salt with Iodine and Iron
- The ‘+F’ logo has been notified to identify fortified foods.
- The National Nutritional Strategy of 2017 included food fortification as one of the measures to address anaemia, vitamin A, and iodine deficits.
- The Government is distributing fortified rice through the Integrated Child Development Services and Mid Day Meal Scheme.
Why in News?
- The Department of Food and Public Distribution, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution organised a one-day National Seminar on Rice Fortification.