From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Fortification of food
Mains level : Under-nutrition issues
In a pushback against the Centre’s plan to mandatorily fortify rice and edible oils with vitamins and minerals, a group of scientists and activists have warned of the adverse impacts on health and livelihoods.
- Food fortification is defined as the practice of adding vitamins and minerals to commonly consumed foods during processing to increase their nutritional value.
- It is a proven, safe and cost-effective strategy for improving diets and for the prevention and control of micronutrient deficiencies.
Types of food fortification
Food fortification can also be categorized according to the stage of addition:
- Commercial and industrial fortification (wheat flour, cornmeal, cooking oils)
- Biofortification (breeding crops to increase their nutritional value, which can include both conventional selective breeding, and genetic engineering)
- Home fortification (example: vitamin D drops)
- Health: Fortified staple foods will contain natural or near-natural levels of micro-nutrients, which may not necessarily be the case with supplements.
- Taste: It provides nutrition without any change in the characteristics of food or the course of our meals.
- Nutrition: If consumed on a regular and frequent basis, fortified foods will maintain body stores of nutrients more efficiently and more effectively than will intermittently supplement.
- Economy: The overall costs of fortification are extremely low; the price increase is approximately 1 to 2 percent of the total food value.
- Society: It upholds everyone’s right to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger
Issues with fortified food
- Against nature: Fortification and enrichment upset nature’s packaging. Our body does not absorb individual nutrients added to processed foods as efficiently compared to nutrients naturally occurring.
- Bioavailability: Supplements added to foods are less bioavailable. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a nutrient your body is able to absorb and use.
- Immunity issues: They lack immune-boosting substances.
- Over-nutrition: Fortified foods and supplements can pose specific risks for people who are taking prescription medications, including decreased absorption of other micro-nutrients, treatment failure, and increased mortality risk.