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Report Flags Risk of Fortified Rice

Context

A report has flagged issues due to threats posed to anaemic persons over iron over-nutrition created by rice fortification.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy, Public distribution system

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the report
  2. What are the risks highlighted?
  3. What is rice fortification?
  4. Need of rice fortification
  5. What are the standards for fortification?
  6. Advantages
  7. Issues with fortified food

Highlights of the report

  • Despite the food regulator’s regulations on fortified foods, the activists observed that neither field officials nor recipients had been trained about the potential dangers.
  • There were no warning labels.
  • The right to make informed eating choices is a fundamental right. In the instance of rice fortification, no prior informed consent from the recipients was ever sought.

What are the risks highlighted?

  • Thalassemia, sickle cell anaemia, and malaria are diseases in which the body already has an excess of iron, whereas tuberculosis patients are unable to absorb iron.
  • Patients with these conditions who consume iron-fortified meals may experience a reduction in immunity and organ function.

What is rice fortification?

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (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”.
  • The cooking of fortified rice does not require any special procedure.
  • After cooking, fortified rice retains the same physical properties and micronutrient levels as it had before cooking.
  • Fortified rice will be packed in jute bags with the logo (‘+F’) and the line “Fortified with Iron, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12”.
  • Various technologies are available to add micronutrients to regular rice, such as coating, dusting, and ‘extrusion’.
  • The last mentioned involves the production of fortified rice kernels (FRKs) from a mixture using an ‘extruder’ machine.
  • It is considered to be the best technology for India.
  • The fortified rice kernels are blended with regular rice to produce fortified rice.

Need of rice fortification

  • India has very high levels of malnutrition among women and children.
  • According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anaemic and every third child is stunted.
  • Fortification of food is considered to be one of the most suitable methods to combat malnutrition.
  • Rice is one of India’s staple foods, consumed by about two-thirds of the population.
  • Per capita rice consumption in India is 6.8 kg per month.
  • Therefore, fortifying rice with micronutrients is an option to supplement the diet of the poor.

What are the standards for fortification?

  • Under the Ministry’s guidelines, 10 g of FRK must be blended with 1 kg of regular rice.
  • According to FSSAI norms, 1 kg of fortified rice will contain the following: iron (28 mg-42.5 mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram), and vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram).
  • Rice may also be fortified with zinc (10 mg-15 mg), vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), vitamin B-1 (1 mg-1.5 mg), vitamin B-2 (1.25 mg-1.75 mg), vitamin B-3 (12.5 mg-20 mg) and vitamin B-6 (1.5 mg-2.5 mg) per kg.

Advantages

  • 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 the characteristics of food or the 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 intermittently supplement.
  •  The overall costs of fortification are extremely low; the price increase is approximately 1 to 2 percent of the total food value.
  •  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

  • 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.
  • 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.

-Source: The Hindu

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June 2022
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