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Summary and Analysis of Union Budget 2023-2024

Fortifying India

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    11th Nov, 2022

Context

India is home to one in three of the world’s malnourished children and has the second highest level of wasting among children globally. In this regard, food fortification can significantly improve nutrition and health.

Background

  • India ranked 107th out of 121 assessed countries on the 2022 Global Hunger Index (GHI).
  • Although there are some measurement issues in the GHI, there is high malnutrition in India due to rice-wheat biased policies.
  • Malnutrition in India manifests itself in terms of triple burden – underweight especially among poor, hidden hunger (deficiency in micronutrients), and overweight.
  • In the quest to combat malnutrition, food fortification clearly plays an important role.

Analysis

What is fortification?

  • According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), “Fortification is 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 the need of fortification?

  • Malnutrition: India has very high levels of malnutrition among women and children.
  • Anaemic and Stunting: According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anaemic and every third child is stunted.
  • Hidden Hunger: India also suffers from hidden hunger. Also known as micronutrient malnutrition, it can be understood as a lack of vitamins and minerals.
    • Effects: nutrient-deficiency diseases, compromised immune systems, higher mortality rates in pregnant and lactating women and infants, mental and physical retardation in children

What causes micronutrient deficiencies? 

  • Poor diet, increased micronutrient needs during certain life stages (pregnancy and lactation), and health problems such as diseases, infections, or parasites all contribute to such deficiencies.
  • Recognized micronutrient deficiencies: Iodine, Iron, and Zinc, Vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamins B

How fortification can solve the issue? 

  • 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.

Standards for fortification (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution)

  • 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)
    • 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.

 

Fortification vehicles in India

  • Public Distribution System (PDS)
  • Mid-day Meal Scheme
  • Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)
  • Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA) 
  • Government initiatives to Addressing Nutrition Gap
  • Food Safety Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulation, 2018
  • Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011
  • Fortification of Rice & its Distribution under Public Distribution System
  • Integration of fortified rice in the PM-POSHAN

Socio-economic impact

  • Reductions in health care costs
  • Improved health and nutrition outcomes
  • Enhanced educational capacity
  • Improved productivity
  • opportunity to improve the nutrition of vulnerable populations in an efficient and cost-effective manner
  • other gains that benefit human capital and economic development

What are the challenges to food fortification?

There are several challenges to food fortification in India. Notable one are:

  • Political momentum at the Central Government level not translating into uniform State action
  • Lack of policy incentives for the private sector to fortify foods
  • The small scale and informal nature of producers in the rice, wheat flour, and milk value chains makes dissemination, coordination, capacity building, and tracking challenging
  • High capital costs of blending machinery, coupled with lack of access to affordable finance
  • Low awareness levels amongst end-consumers
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