Rice Fortification

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    Recently, a webinar is being held on “Rice Fortification: A complementary approach to address Nutritional Anaemia”.

    About

    • It was organised to mark the ongoing 4th Rashtriya Poshan Mah.
    • Organised by: Department of Food and Public Distribution under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Ministry of Women and Child Development with technical support of the World Food Programme (WFP).

    Rice fortification

    • Fortification: 
      • The process of adding nutrients, such as micronutrients or macronutrients, to food. 
      • It can be a commercial choice to provide extra nutrients in a food, or sometimes it is a public health policy that aims to reduce the incidence of dietary deficiencies in a population.
    • Fortifying rice: 
      • It involves grinding broken rice into powder, mixing it with nutrients, and then shaping it into rice-like kernels using an extrusion process. 
      • These fortified kernels are then mixed with normal rice in a 1:100 ratio and distributed for consumption. 
    • Enhancers: 
      • The addition of basic material like ferric pyrophosphate and enhancing compounds like citric acid and trisodium citrate mixtures to increase iron absorption in a staple food is the most common form of fortification. 
    • Efforts:
      • India has been taking promising steps to ensure food security and improving the nutrition outcomes of its population.
      • Therefore, the fortification needs to be integrated into the larger response to address malnutrition in the country with the understanding that it will reinforce, complement and support ongoing nutrition improvement programmes such as supplementation & dietary diversification.
      • The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution had launched a centrally sponsored pilot scheme on “Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under Public Distribution System (PDS)” for a period of three years beginning 2019-20 with a total budget outlay of Rs.174.64 crore.
        • The pilot scheme focuses on 15 districts in 15 states– Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh.

     

    Poshan (Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition) Abhiyaan

    • POSHAN Abhiyan aims at improving nutritional outcomes for children, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers. 
    • The programme was launched by the Prime Minister on March 8, 2018, on the occasion of International Women’s Day from Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan.
    • It directs the attention of the country towards the problem of malnutrition and addresses it in a mission mode. 
    •  Mission Poshan 2.0
      • Focusing on the aims of POSHAN Abhiyan, Mission Poshan 2.0 (Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0) has been announced in the Budget 2021-2022 as an integrated nutrition support programme, to strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach and outcomes with a focus on developing practices that nurture health, wellness and immunity to disease and malnutrition.
    • To give momentum to POSHAN Abhiyan, the ‘National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges’ on 24th July 2018 decided to celebrate the month of September as Rashtriya Poshan Maah. During this month activities related to nutrition awareness will be carried out by all the states/UTs up to the grass-root level.

    (Image Courtesy: ex )

     

    Significance

    • Ease of use:
      • It’s a widely used staple food, it is simple to replace standard rice with fortified rice to boost the nutritional profile of a simple diet. 
      • With certain methods of fortification, consumer usage is key in effectiveness. 
      • However, advances in fortification technologies, such as the use of hot extrusion, also ensure the added high-quality micronutrients remain stable without requiring a behaviour change or further education for the end consumer.
    • Low Cost:
      • The specific costs of fortified rice depend on several factors, such as the scale of the operation and the blending ratio of fortified to non-fortified kernels – most commonly 0.5-2%. 
      • However, rice fortification costs are small compared to the wide-reaching benefits. 
      • The cost impact is around 0.5-3%, yet such strategies can help tackle malnutrition at both a population and personal level.
    • Consistency for consumers:
      • It looks, cooks, and tastes the same as non-fortified rice
      • This is great for individuals in low-income countries, where awareness and education on both nutrition and usage of fortified rice may be lacking.
    • Market differentiation for brands:
      • Fortified rice can also be customized for specific needs
      • It presents a solution for health-conscious consumers looking for new ways to reach specific health benefits.
    • Reducing micronutrient deficiencies for governments and schools:
      • For governments, mandatory rice fortification can support a country to significantly reduce micronutrient deficiencies (MNDs), though this does rely heavily on successful and wide-reaching implementation and is very challenging when the rice milling landscape is highly fragmented. 
      • There’s also the opportunity to build fortified rice into school feeding programs and government social safety nets, offering the same benefits on a smaller scale, but targeting vulnerable populations at high risk of deficiencies.
    • Addressing malnutrition:
      • Problems like anaemia can be reduced with rampant use of such Fortified food.
      • The basic purpose of food fortification is to improve the nutritional quality and provide public health benefits to the population with minimal risks. 
      • Fortified rice can deliver essential vitamins and minerals missing in many people’s meals, and can help ensure the poorest get the nutrition they need for an active and healthy life.
    • Employment and economy: 
      • With increased production of rice and such food, employment will increase and so will the situation of the economy.

    WHO recommendations

    • Fortification of rice with iron is recommended as a public health strategy to improve the iron status of populations, in settings where rice is a staple food.
    • Fortification of rice with vitamin A may be used as a public health strategy to improve the iron status and vitamin A nutrition of populations.
    • Fortification of rice with folic acid may be used as a public health strategy to improve the folate nutritional status of populations.

    Challenges

    • Implementation of Laws: The implementation of food safety laws, mainly left to state governments and Union territories now, will be a big problem since the implementation machinery in many states is weak.
    • Division of beneficiaries is not easy: Rice is consumed in large quantities as a staple in India and mandatory fortification will force even the population groups which do not need it into taking additional food additives.
    • Food Safety: Mandatory fortification of rice would certainly pose a risk to food safety despite the safeguards of food laws. 
    • Tracking: Health benefits from fortification are not as easy to track as in the case of any vaccine. A proper tracking mechanism is needed.
    • Budgetary allocation not utilised: Mere 30% of funds only have been utilised to date.

    (Image Courtesy: TH )

     Way Ahead

    • Investment: Rice millers will have to make the immediate investment and the government has to consider offering loans and other incentives to create an enabling environment. 
    • Infrastructure and machinery: Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has been requested to come out with a standard for extruder and blending machines for fortified rice production for uniformity.
    • Awareness and demand:
      • There is a need to amplify efforts to spread awareness about fortified rice and its benefits so that demand is created and the acceptability for nutrient-enriched rice is better. 
      • All stakeholders must come together to create awareness campaigns using local languages.
    • Testing: 
      • Since the fortified kernels look and taste the same as normal rice grains, there is also an urgent need for quality control testing and monitoring to ensure consumers are not taken for a ride. 
      • FSSAI and the NABL laboratories are exploring avenues to build capacity for quality testing. 
    • Regulated Use: Need to use food additives in permitted quantities to make it palatable. 

     

    Different methods to make rice more nutritious post-harvest:

    • Dusting – this is where rice kernels are dusted with a micronutrient powder, relying on an electrostatic force to bind the dry powder to the surface of the grain. Fortified rice produced by dusting cannot be washed or cooked in excess of water.
    • Coating – a method that involves the use of a fortificant mix and ingredients such as wax or gum to ‘fix’ the micronutrient layer being sprayed onto the rice. The produced fortified kernels are blended with regular rice, typically at 0.5 – 2% ratio.
    • Hot or warm extrusion – hot extrusion is considered the most robust method of rice fortification, supported by an extensive evidence base to have a positive impact on micronutrient deficiencies. 
      • Broken rice grains are ground into rice flour, then mixed with water and the required nutrients to produce a dough. 
      • The fortified dough is then passed through an extruder to produce the fortified kernels, which are then blended with regular rice typically at 0.5-2% ratio. The temperature at which the extrusion takes place determines if we speak of hot or warm extrusion and has an influence on the rice starch gelatinization and thus firmness of the produced fortified kernels.

    Sources: PIB