According to the FSSAI major edible oil manufacturing and processing companies have decided to fortify edible oil with vitamin A and D in the next three months. This move has come as an outcome of the meeting convened by FSSAI in New Delhi. Almost 85 percent of the participants out of the 130 people who attended the meeting were from the edible oil industry and the rest were representatives from the industry associations, academia as well as social development sector.
In Rajasthan and Gujarat, the edible oil industry is already selling only fortified edible oil on behest of the governments. Others like Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka, Chandigarh, and Himachal Pradesh have started providing fortified oil through the public funded programmes like the PDS, ICDS and MDM. However, a nationwide programme to fortify edible oils would help to reduce vitamin A and D deficiencies in the Indian population.
The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) Government of India has already pointed to the fact that the Indian population suffers from severe deficiencies of vitamin A and D. About 50-90 percent of the Indian population, across all social sectors, has these deficiencies which need to be addressed immediately. Fortification of edible oils with vitamin A and D, offers a feasible and cost-effective intervention, as edible oils are consumed by all Indian households. Fortification is the deliberate increase of micronutrients on foods to improve its quality.
Technical aspects and challenges in fortifying edible oils and creating more encouraging trade practices were also discussed at the meeting. There were discussion around edible oil that is sold loose and the possibility of selling edible oil in smaller packets. Edible oil processors decided to come out with oils in small pouches in order to ensure effective ban on loose oil sale in the country. Smaller packaging being consumer friendly would enable affordability and encourage all sections of consumers to buy good quality, fortified edible oil.
Since the nation’s health is an important issue the FSSAI has already laid down the standards for the fortification of edible oils with vitamins A and D. FSSAI has also created specific regulations that prohibit the sale of loose edible oil. Food safety is of paramount importance in the promotion of public health therefore interventions like these will help the nation to grow healthier. The meeting provided an opportunity to engage with participants from the public and private sector including medium and small industry partners. This interaction would work towards strengthening public-private partnerships.
During the meeting stakeholders also agreed to jointly promote ‘Consumer-facing’ awareness, including promotion of the national logo for fortified foods, symbolizing better nutrition. The oil processors also decided to take up a nation-wide drive on awareness about repeated use of edible oil and Total Polar Compounds (TPC) standards being finalized by the FSSAI. Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI, stated that “Food fortification has a great potential to enrich the nutritional quality of various foods. It is encouraging to see such a traction and commitment within the food industry to initiate fortification of foods. This would indeed help India to improve the nutritional status of millions of people, both the poor and the rich.”
In India the consumption of edible oils is fairly high and ranges from 12-18 kg/ per annum per person. The demand for edible oil in India is 217.09 lakh tons. This is made available by manufacturing and processing some edible oils in the country and importing around127.31 lakh tons of edible oils. Fortification of edible oils is therefore seen as the right move in reducing deficiencies of vitamin A and D in the nation.