Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 | Last Update : 07:42 PM IST
Proposal to add vitamins, minerals to flour, oil awaits Cabinet nod.
New Delhi: In a bid to tackle malnutrition in the country, the women and child development (WCD) ministry has proposed addition of minerals and vitamins to salt, wheat flour and edible oil on the lines of fortification of common salt with iodine. Spearheaded by the WCD ministry, the proposal is awaiting Cabinet approval which aims at tackling vitamin and iron deficiency.
Fortification means deliberately increasing the content of essential micro nutrients in food so as to improve the nutritional value of the food.
With overcoming the curse of malnutrition high on its agenda, the government had earlier constituted a committee to formulate a comprehensive policy on food fortification and to draft legislation on food fortification under the chairmanship of the director of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. Importantly, to evolve the policy on micronutrient fortification, a group of secretaries on education and heath also identified fortification of staple food like rice, edible oil, and milk with iron, folic acid, and Vitamin A with a timeline of three years.
Significantly, some states have already started moving towards fortification. Double fortified salt is being distributed in the public distribution system of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and Karnataka is all set to introduce fortified wheat flour in their mid-day meals.
To promote it in all parts of the country, the WCD ministry has proposed a mandatory rollout of fortified salt, edible oil, and wheat flour to the Cabinet last week. “The government has accorded high priority to the issue of malnutrition and is implementing several programmes to address nutrition-related issues. We are looking forward to making fortified food mandatory,” a senior official in the ministry said.
The move gains significance as the government data suggests that an alarming 70 per cent of the Indian population consumes less than 50 per cent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of micronutrients.
Ironically, India has more than a quarter of the world’s Vitamin A deficient pre-school children. About 70 per cent of the pre-school children and over 50 per cent of women suffer from anaemia caused by iron deficiency.
At present, 86 countries have mandated fortification of at least one industrially milled grain — wheat flour, maize, or rice. In India, fortification of salt with iodine was started in 1962 by the government.
The government has already launched Food Safety and Standards (fortification of foods) Regulations, 2016.
To give further boost, the government also introduced a Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) this month to provide technical support, advocacy, and expertise in all aspects of food fortification on the supply side for industry players as well as for consumers on the demand side. The online portal of FFRC is to function as a knowledge dissemination and interaction platform for stakeholders.