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Fortifying Rice for a Healthier India: A Solution to Iron Deficiency and Anaemia

Published: 18th Jan, 2024

Fortifying Rice for a Healthier India: A Solution to Iron Deficiency and Anaemia


Addressing widespread iron deficiency and anaemia in India requires effective and sustainable strategies. Fortifying rice, a dietary staple, with essential nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid emerges as a promising solution.

The Challenge of Iron Deficiency and Anaemia

  • Iron deficiency and anaemia predominantly affect children and women in India, especially in states like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar, with prevalence rates as high as 50 percent, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5).
  • Poor consumption of iron-rich foods and parasitic infections contribute to this health challenge.

The Role of Fortified Rice

  • Fortifying rice with iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid presents an opportunity to combat iron deficiency and anaemia, considering the widespread consumption of rice in India.
  • Studies have shown the effectiveness of fortified rice in managing anaemia and iron deficiency.

Need for Fortified Rice:

  • Overcoming Resistance and Misinformation
  • Despite the success of food fortification programs globally, resistance to fortified rice has emerged in India.
  • Misinformation, including concerns about the safety of fortified rice and fears of overconsumption leading to adverse effects, has caused confusion among consumers and manufacturers.
  • It is essential to address these concerns based on scientific evidence.

Safety and Effectiveness of Fortified Rice

  • The micronutrient levels in fortified rice are regulated by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), ensuring safety.
  • Iron absorption is naturally regulated in the body, preventing toxicity.
  • Studies, including a WHO review, demonstrate a modest reduction in anaemia through rice fortification, aligning with national nutrition goals.

Pilot Studies and Effectiveness

  • Recent pilot studies in Malkangiri, Odisha, show a reduction in anaemia rates, reinforcing the effectiveness of iron-fortified rice.
  • The changes observed align with long-term preventive strategies, and no adverse effects have been reported.

Addressing Concerns:

Haemoglobinopathies and Blood Disorders

  • Concerns about the consumption of fortified foods, especially for individuals with haemoglobinopathies and blood disorders, are addressed.
  • Research indicates no adverse effects, with iron released from blood transfusions far exceeding the amounts from fortified food.

Government Support and Research

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Nutrition supports the safety of iron-fortified foods.
  • As large-scale food fortification expands, continuous evaluation and monitoring for adverse events are crucial, emphasizing the need for ongoing research.


  • Fortifying rice emerges as a cost-effective and promising long-term solution to combat micronutrient malnutrition in India.
  • With effective regulation, safety measures, and scientific evidence supporting its benefits, fortified rice aligns with public health objectives.
  • It stands as a crucial strategy until a diverse and adequate diet becomes achievable for all segments of the Indian population.

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