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Rice Fortification: A complementary approach to address Nutritional Anaemia

  • IASbaba
  • September 11, 2021
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Rice Fortification: A complementary approach to address Nutritional Anaemia

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II: Health & Governance

In News: To mark the ongoing 4th Rashtriya Poshan Maah, a webinar on rice fortication was organised.

Background: Prime Minister in his address on the 75th Independence Day (15th August, 2021) had made an announcement that fortified rice will be provided through all Government of India schemes by 2024. 

India and Malnutrition

India has been taking promising steps to ensure food security and improving the nutrition outcomes of its population, it is, therefore, about time that fortification is integrated into the larger response to address malnutrition in the country with the understanding that it will reinforce, complement and support ongoing nutrition improvement programmes such as supplementation & dietary diversification.

  • Malnutrition especially child malnutrition is a major threat to the growth and development of children.
    • According to a National Family Health Survey report, India has the largest burden of iron-deficiency and anaemia worldwide.
    • About 59% of children and 50% of pregnant women are anaemic in India.
    • Child and maternal malnutrition accounts for 15% of India’s total disease burden.
    • The country reportedly loses around 1 per cent of GDP (Rs 1.35 lakh crore) every year due to iron-deficiency anaemia.
  • Micronutrient deficiencies or ‘hidden hunger’ also continue to pose significant public health problems in Indian populations.
  • Therefore, the decision to fortify rice was taken to address the malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients especially among poor women and poor children.
  • This announcement is significant because, government distributes more than 300 lakh tonnes of rice to 81 crore people under schemes covered under National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

About Fortified Rice

  • According to the WHO, fortification is the process of increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, such as vitamins or minerals, in a food item to improve its nutritional value and provide public health benefits at minimal cost.
  • It has minimal effects on taste and cooking properties while at the same time adding multiple nutrients to cure multiple deficiencies.
  • It also has minimal behaviour change, unlike supplements.
  • For example, milk is often fortified with vitamin D, and calcium may be added to fruit juices.
  • Rice is the fifth item to get the government’s fortification push after salt, edible oil, milk and wheat.
  • Fortified rice is the most sustainable solution to the health issues.
  • There is absolutely no difference between rice and fortified rice.
  • Process of Fortification of rice
    • According to the norms of the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India, 1 kg of fortified rice must contain iron (28mg-42.5mg), folic acid (75-125 mg) and vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25mg).
    • Usual milled rice is low in micronutrient content because its nutrient-rich superficial layer is removed during rice milling and polishing operations. This makes the grain taste better and visually appealing but less nutritious.
    • Rice can be fortified by adding a micronutrient powder containing iron, folic acid and other B-complex vitamins, vitamin A and zinc, which then sticks to the grains.

Way Forward: There is a need to amplify efforts to spread awareness about fortified rice and its benefits so that demand is created and acceptability for nutrient-enriched rice is better. All stakeholders must come together to create awareness campaigns using local languages.

News Source: PIB

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