Experts warn against mandatory food fortification
Part of: GS Prelims and GS -III – Food processing and related industries in India
In news Experts have warned of the adverse impacts on health and livelihoods because of Food Fortification.
What’s the issue?
- Centre has plans to mandatorily fortify rice and edible oils with vitamins and minerals.
- But, experts say adding a few synthetic micronutrients could harm the health of consumers.
- Instead, dietary diversity and higher protein consumption can solve the undernutrition problem in India.
- 15 States have been identified for implementing Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme on Fortification of Rice & its distribution through Public Distribution System.
- The Pilot Scheme has been approved for a period of three years beginning 2019-2020.
What are the Issues associated with fortification?
- Evidence supporting fortification is inconclusive and certainly not adequate before major national policies are rolled out.
- Many of the studies which FSSAI relies upon to promote fortification were sponsored by food companies which would benefit from it, leading to conflicts of interest.
- Mandatory fortification would also harm the vast informal economy of Indian farmers and food processors, including local oil and rice mills, and instead benefit a small group of multinational corporations.
- Also, a major problem with chemical fortification of foods is that nutrients don’t work in isolation but need each other for optimal absorption.
What needs to be done?
- Undernourishment in India is caused by monotonous cereal-based diets with low consumption of vegetables and animal protein.
- So, instead of fortification of food, dietary diversity is a healthier and more cost-effective way to fight malnutrition.
What is food fortification?
- According to the WHO, food fortification is defined as the practice of deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and to provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.