From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Fortification of food
Mains level : Addressing malnutrition issues
PM in his I-day speech has announced the fortification of rice distributed under various government schemes, including the Public Distribution System (PDS) and mid-day meals in schools, by 2024.
What is Fortification?
- FSSAI defines fortification as “deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients in a food so as to improve the nutritional quality of food and to provide public health benefit with minimal risk to health”.
What is Fortified Rice?
- Rice can be fortified by adding a micronutrient powder to the rice that adheres to the grains or spraying 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 micronutrients, 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.
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.
What is the plan announced by the PM?
- Malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients in poor women and poor children pose major obstacles in their development.
- In view of this, it has been decided that the government will fortify the rice given to the poor under its various schemes.
- Be it the rice available at ration shops or the rice provided to children in their mid-day meals, the rice available through every scheme will be fortified by the year 2024.
Why such a move?
- The announcement is significant as the country has high levels of malnutrition among women and children.
- According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anemic and every third child is stunted.
- India ranks 94 out of 107 countries and is in the ‘serious hunger’ category on the Global Hunger Index (GHI).
- Fortification of rice is a cost-effective and complementary strategy to increase vitamin and mineral content in diets.
- According to the Food Ministry, seven countries have mandated rice fortification – the USA, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, and the Solomon Islands.
- 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.
Adhering to FSSAI standard
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) sets standards for food items in the country.
- According to FSSAI norms, 1 kg fortified rice will contain iron (28 mg-42.5 mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram), and Vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram).
- In addition, rice may also be fortified with micronutrients, singly or in combination, with zinc(10 mg-15 mg), Vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), Vitamin B1 (1 mg-1.5 mg), Vitamin B2 (1.25 mg-1.75 mg), Vitamin B3 (12.5 mg-20 mg) and Vitamin B6 (1.5 mg-2.5 mg) per kg.
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Back2Basics: Public Distribution System (PDS)
- The PDS is an Indian food Security System established under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution.
- PDS evolved as a system of management of scarcity through the distribution of food grains at affordable prices.
- PDS is operated under the joint responsibility of the Central and State Governments.
- The Central Government, through the Food Corporation of India (FCI), has assumed the responsibility for procurement, storage, transportation, and bulk allocation of food grains to the State Governments.
- The operational responsibilities including allocation within the State, identification of eligible families, issue of Ration Cards and supervision of the functioning of FPSs etc., rest with the State Governments.
- Under the PDS, presently the commodities namely wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene are being allocated to the States/UTs for distribution.
- Some states/UTs also distribute additional items of mass consumption through PDS outlets such as pulses, edible oils, iodized salt, spices, etc.
Mid-Day Meal Scheme
- The Midday Meal Scheme is a school meal program in India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.
- It is a wholesome freshly-cooked lunch served to children in government and government-aided schools in India.
- It supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes in government, government-aided, local body, and alternate innovative education centers, Madarsa and Maqtabs.
- The programme has undergone many changes since its launch in 1995.
- The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.
The scheme aims to:
- avoid classroom hunger
- increase school enrolment
- increase school attendance
- improve socialization among castes
- address malnutrition
- empower women through employment