Fortified rice holds the promise of being a potent solution to hidden hunger, a pervasive issue affecting millions globally. This innovative approach involves enriching rice with essential micronutrients, such as iron, folic acid, and vitamins, to address nutritional deficiencies in populations heavily reliant on this staple food. The significance of fortified rice cannot be overstated, particularly in regions where rice is a dietary staple. By seamlessly integrating essential nutrients into a familiar food source, it can overcome barriers to access and acceptance, making it a cost-effective and sustainable strategy to combat hidden hunger. However, for fortified rice to truly realize its potential, it requires coordinated efforts from governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector to ensure equitable distribution, awareness, and affordability. Furthermore, a rigorous monitoring and evaluation system is essential to assess its impact on improving nutritional outcomes and reducing hidden hunger. In our quest for global food security, fortified rice emerges as a compelling ally against a silent yet formidable foe.
Tag: GS-3 Food security and related issues
About Food Fortification and Hidden Hunger; Malnutrition trends in India; Advantages of food fortification as a measure to address hidden hunger; Government’s Initiatives to tackle hidden hunger; Challenges
Hidden hunger is a serious malnutrition condition caused by insufficient intake or absorption of micronutrients. India has embraced food fortification as a strategic approach to tackle hidden hunger.
About Food Fortification and Hidden Hunger
- Food Fortification refers to the practice of deliberately increasing the content of one or more micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) in a food or condiment to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.
- Examples of Food fortification are Salt iodization, Rice fortification, Wheat flour fortification, Edible oil fortification, Milk fortification etc.
- In 1950s vegetable oil fortification and salt iodization was carried out. In the 2000s, the government introduced fortification of other staples like rice and wheat.
- Hidden Hunger is the presence of multiple micronutrient deficiencies (particularly iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin A), which can occur without a deficit in energy intake as a result of consuming an energy-dense, but nutrient-poor diet. Over 50% of the Indian population is affected by hidden hunger. It can lead to anaemia, stunting, impaired cognitive development, blindness, and even death.
Malnutrition trends in India
- Malnutrition in adults: According to the Tata-Cornell Institute report of 2020, approximately 194 million people in the country were still undernourished during 2016-18, representing only a slight 8% decrease from 1990-92 levels.
- Inadequate nutrition: According to Social Progress Index (SPI) 2022, in Aspirational Districts only about 12.32% of children aged 6-23 months receive adequate nutrition. Over 690 districts have less than 30% of children receiving proper nutrition and 17 districts have over half their children suffering stunting.
- Prevalence of anaemia among women and children is 61.20% on average, while in 67 Aspirational Districts, less than 12% of children receive an adequate diet.
- Poor dietary habits also contribute to malnutrition and higher risks of chronic diseases, as India’s average daily calorie consumption falls below the recommended 2,503 kcal per capita per day.
- Inadequate protein intake is another concern, with only 6-8% of calories coming from protein sources.
- Preference for processed foods over fruits and excessive cereal consumption compounds the issue.
Advantages of food fortification as a measure to address hidden hunger
- Cost-effectiveness: Food fortification has a high benefit-to-cost ratio. This has been a driving factor in faster adoption of fortification to tackle hidden hunger.
- Additional costs for fortified rice range from 1% to 10% of the retail price, i.e. Rs 0.45 per kg to the consumer.
- Socio-cultural acceptability: Fortification does not require any changes in food habits and patterns of people. It is a socio-culturally acceptable way to deliver nutrients to people.
- No alteration of food characteristics: It does not alter the characteristics of the food like the taste, aroma or the texture of the food.
- Quick implementation: It can be implemented quickly and shows results in improvement of health in a relatively short period of time.
- Wider reach: Since the nutrients are added to widely consumed staple foods, fortification is an excellent way to improve the health of a large section of the population, all at once.
Government’s Initiatives to tackle hidden hunger
- Rice fortification: Government is aiming to fortify rice in all social safety net schemes by 2024, with the program’s cost borne by it.
- PM Poshan and Anaemia-Mukt Bharat: Such schemes have been launched which underscore the importance of food fortification and supplementation.
- Fortification standards by FSSAI for rice, wheat flour, edible oil, double fortified salt (DFS) and milk.
- The creation of a Food Fortification Resource Centre and introduction of the ‘+F’ logo to identify fortified foods has helped food producers join the action.
- Wheat fortification: The decision on fortification of wheat was announced in 2018 and is being implemented in 12 states under India’s flagship Poshan Abhiyaan to improve nutrition among children, adolescents, pregnant mothers and lactating mothers.
- Milk Fortification: Fortification of milk was started in 2017 under which the National Dairy Development Board of India (NDDB) is pushing companies to add vitamin D.
- Mandating use of fortified staples such as DFS and fortified edible oil in safety net programmes.
- Raising awareness about the benefits of fortification among the public and food industry
- Managing costs and ensuring the widespread availability of fortified rice
- Fostering better coordination among stakeholders, such as the government, food industry, and civil society organisations
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is fortified rice, and how is it different from regular rice?
A: Fortified rice is regular rice that has been enhanced with essential micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, designed to address nutritional deficiencies. This makes it a more nutritionally balanced option compared to standard rice.
2. How does fortified rice help combat hidden hunger?
A: Fortified rice helps combat hidden hunger by providing a convenient and accessible source of crucial nutrients, especially in regions where rice is a dietary staple. It can bridge the nutritional gap and contribute to improved health outcomes.
3. Are there any potential side effects or health concerns associated with consuming fortified rice?
A: No, consuming fortified rice is generally safe. The added nutrients are carefully chosen to meet recommended dietary allowances and are unlikely to cause adverse effects when consumed as part of a balanced diet.
4. Is fortified rice affordable and accessible to all, especially in low-income regions?
A: The affordability and accessibility of fortified rice depend on factors like government policies, private sector involvement, and international support. Efforts are being made to ensure that fortified rice is cost-effective and available to those who need it most, particularly in regions with high hidden hunger.
5. How can I tell if the rice I’m buying is fortified?
A: Look for labels or packaging indicating that the rice is “fortified” or “vitamin and mineral enriched.” These labels should provide information about the specific nutrients that have been added. Additionally, check with local food authorities or suppliers to confirm the availability of fortified rice in your area.
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