From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Iron fortification
Mains level : Isuses with fortified food
Many things have been said about the necessity for mandatory iron fortification of foods in India.
- Iron fortification of food is a methodology utilized worldwide to address iron deficiency.
- A critical problem in some food fortification programs is the lack of bioavailability of iron compounds.
Why need iron fortification?
Ans. Prevalence of Anaemia
- Iron deficiency anaemia is due to insufficient iron.
- National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 provides insights into anaemia prevalence in the country, indicating that 57.2% of women ages 15 to 49 are anaemic, up from 49.7% in NFHS-4.
- Without enough iron, the body can’t produce enough of a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen (hemoglobin).
- Severe anemia during pregnancy increases your risk of premature birth, having a low birth weight baby and postpartum depression.
- Some studies also show an increased risk of infant death immediately before or after birth.
Concerns over iron fortification
Ans. Fear of diabetes and heart ailments
- Iron increases the risk for many non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension and even high blood cholesterol.
- A US based survey shows that high ferritin level had a four-fold higher risk of having diabetes.
- The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey of Indian adolescents to resulted in such scary outcomes.
- There was a clear and significant risk for each of these conditions as serum ferritin increased.
Ans. India is world capital of diabetes and hypertension
- No less than 50% of Indian children, aged 5-19 years, already had a biomarker of either high blood sugar or high blood lipids, even when thin or stunted.
- Thus, the risk of chronic disease is already very high in our children.
- Thus mandatory cereal fortification has severe hazards for India.
Why mandatory fortification is not a feasible option?
- Occurrence of deficiencies: We do not even know if anaemia is as rampant to warrant such mandatory measures.
- Manipulating food choices: When mandatory fortification is enforced in parts of the population that do not need this, it removes their choice of foods, or autonomy.
- Morbidities due to excess: It could even be unethical if the risk of other morbidities is increased.
- No successful example: Rice fortification has not been shown to work in a combined analysis.
- Food fortification is not a magic bullet.
- It should be viewed as a complementary strategy for the prevention and control of micronutrient deficiencies.
- As dietary patterns and deficiency states change, monitoring and periodic evaluation will be essential in helping to make necessary changes.
UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)