The Answer to Micronutrient Deficiency in India
An important objective of Mission Fortification is to increase consumer awareness about the benefits and availability of fortified foods.
Widespread micronutrient malnutrition is a serious threat to the health of the nation; it affects national growth and development. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4: 58.4 per cent of children (6-59 months) and 53.1 per cent women in the reproductive age group are anaemic, and 35.7 per cent of children, under five years, are underweight.
Fortifying food to address micronutrient deficiency
An important component of the mix to combat micronutrient deficiency is the fortification of food. A globally proven intervention, it is a safe and effective means of improving public health.
Fortification is the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, vitamins A & D to staple foods such as rice, wheat, oil, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content. It provides nutritional benefit without requiring consumers to change eating habits or purchase patterns. Food fortification is increasingly being recognised as an effective means of delivering micronutrients.
Institutionalising food fortification
The India Nutrition Initiative, an initiative of Tata Trusts has worked closely with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to define and notify the standards of fortification for wheat, oil, milk, double fortified salt and rice. It is a major step towards promoting fortified staple foods with defined standards as a key intervention for improvement in the micronutrient status of the population at a reasonable cost.
Given the vital importance of food fortification to India’s developmental agenda, Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) was set-up in 2018. Housed within FSSAI, it provides information and inputs on standards and food safety, technology and processes, premix and equipment procurement and manufacture, quality assurance and quality control for the fortification of foods.
Promoting food fortification
An important objective of Mission Fortification is to increase consumer awareness about the benefits and availability of fortified foods and also kickstart a shift in consumer behaviour toward fortified foods. A major step in this direction is the simple, visually attractive and powerful logo, F+; it has helped consumers identify fortified food commodities easily.
The standards and logo for fortified foods have become synonymous with large-scale food fortification in India. Several states are already in the advanced stages of adopting fortified foods in government programmes and several food businesses have voluntarily adopted the fortification standard as an industry norm.
Given the recent developments, the future augurs well for food fortification in the country. In the long-term, the objective is to change health outcomes in the country by way of improved numbers on micronutrient malnutrition and ensure sustained momentum around the fortification agenda.
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