Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

Fortified rice in PDS


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fortified rice, Biofortification, ICDS

Mains level : Food fortification and associated issues

As the Odisha government is preparing to launch fortified rice in the Public Distribution System (PDS), some 100 activists have opposed the move.

Q.What is Fortification of Food? Discuss its various advantages and limitations.

What is Fortified Rice?

  • Rice can be fortified by adding a micronutrient powder to the rice that adheres to the grains or spraying of the surface of ordinary rice grains with a vitamin and mineral mix to form a protective coating.
  • Rice can also be extruded and shaped into partially precooked grain-like structures resembling rice grains, which can then be blended with natural polished rice.
  • Rice kernels can be fortified with several micro-nutrients, such as iron, folic acid and other B-complex vitamins, vitamin A and zinc.
  • These fortified kernels are then mixed with normal rice in a 1:100 ratio, and distributed for consumption.

Its advantage

  • Fortified staple foods will contain natural or near natural levels of micro-nutrients, which may not necessarily be the case with supplements.
  • It provides nutrition without any change in characteristics of food or course of our meals.
  • If consumed on a regular and frequent basis, fortified foods will maintain body stores of nutrients more efficiently and more effectively than will intermittent supplements.
  • The overall costs of fortification are extremely low; the price increase is approximately 1 to 2 per cent of the total food value.

Issues with fortified food

  • Fortification and enrichment upsets nature’s packaging. Our body does not absorb individual nutrients added to processed foods as efficiently compared to nutrients naturally occurring.
  • Supplements added to foods are less bioavailable. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a nutrient your body is able to absorb and use.
  • They lack immune-boosting substances.
  • 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.

Why did the activists protest?

  • Vitamin C and calcium are available in abundance in natural food. Vitamin C is water soluble.
  • If the rice is laced with Vitamin C, it will get washed away while the rice is cleaned before cooking.
  • It is a futile exercise to add Vitamin C to uncooked rice.
  • In our traditional cooking practices, lemon juice is squeezed into cooked food before its consumption.
  • The decision would lead to wasteful expenditure of taxpayers’ money.

Note: Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology. It differs from conventional fortification in that Biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during the processing of the crops.

Regulating fortification

  • FSSAI has formulated a comprehensive regulation on fortification of foods namely ‘Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016’.
  • These regulations set the standards for food fortification and encourage the production, manufacture, distribution, sale and consumption of fortified foods.
  • The regulations also provide for the specific role of FSSAI in promotion for food fortification and to make fortification mandatory.
  • WHO recommends fortification of rice with iron, vitamin A and folic acid as a public health strategy to improve the iron status of population wherever rice is a staple food.

Why it is necessary ?

  • Reaching target populations
  • Avoiding over-consumption in non-target groups
  • Monitoring nutritional status
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