Through a direction dated 27 December 2018, the FSSAI has extended the date of compliance relating to standards for fortification of foods.
In August 2018 the standards for fortification of foods were published in the Official Gazette of India. As per the notification a transition period of five months was given to the Food Business Operators (FBOs) to comply with the fortification regulations. The date for compliance was up to 1 January 2019 but FSSAI has received a large number of representations from FBOs about their inability to comply with the standards by this date.
The FBOs have stated that there is a huge difference between the required levels of fortification specified in the final notified standards as compared to those which are currently operationalized. The industry has expressed their concern as compliance with the new standards, particularly about the fact that the new levels of fortification would require re-formulation of the premix. This would in turn also affect the labeling requirements.
Taking into consideration the concerns of the industry the FSSAI has decided to extend the timeline for the compliance of the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2018 for the further period of six months. The date for compliance has now been extended to 1 July 2019.
Benefits of Food Fortification
Food Fortification has a high benefit-to-cost ratio as cited by the Copenhagen Consensus which estimates that every 1 Rupee spent on fortification results in 9 Rupees in benefits to the economy. Even if the price of fortification is passed to the consumers the increase in price is approximately one of two percent, however, the health benefits are immense.
Nutrients are added to staple foods since they are widely consumed and this can improve the health of a large section of the population, all at once. The quantity of nutrients added is small and well under the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) and are well regulated as per prescribed standards for safe consumption. It is a cost-effective intervention and does not require any changes in eating patterns or food habits of people. It is a socio-culturally acceptable way to deliver nutrients to people. It does not alter the characteristics of the food like the taste, aroma or the texture of the food.
International and Indian scientific studies conducted on infants, children and women, which have demonstrated the efficacy and effectiveness of fortified rice in improving micronutrient status and lowering micronutrient deficiencies
Flour fortification with iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and zinc help provide nutrients and is used as a strategy to prevent anemia in children.
Salt Fortification The efficacy of Double Fortified Salt (DFS) helps to reduce anemia and iron deficiency. According to scientific evidence providing 3.3 mg ferrous fumarate per kg of iodized salt led to significant improvements in hemoglobin, ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor and body iron among female Indian tea pickers in a period of nine months. DFS has been evaluated in the controlled trials in tribal communities and in residential schoolchildren in both urban and rural setting with positive impacts. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has directed the mandatory use of DFS in the ICDS and MDM national programs (2011). In terms of its reach, DFS can reach the most vulnerable children through MDM, ICDS (150-180million) and general population through open market channels. The cost that was a major barrier has been brought down and DFS is now available at Rs.7.5 to Rs.12 per kg.
Fortification of vanaspati with vitamin A has been obligatory in India since 1953. There is scientific evidence that during Indian cooking, the levels have been found to be stable. When oil was added to the mixture of rice, beans, and pulses for Indian feeding programs, around 93 percent of vitamin A was retained after 15 minutes and 90 percent after 30 minutes of cooking. Even with deep frying pakoras in vanaspati at 200º C, retention ranged from 71% after 5 minutes, to 41% after 15 minutes. The stability of Vitamin D is found to be similar to that of vitamin A as little or no loss is reported during processing or storage.
During the 1980s, the Department of Food, Government of India introduced a scheme of fortifying milk with vitamin A at 2000IU/L for toned/double toned milk to prevent night blindness. Consumption of fortified milk by children in India has shown encouraging results. Studies suggest that the intake not only increased mean serum Vitamin D levels but also morbidity rates were decreased (18 percent lower incidence of diarrhea, 26 percent lower incidence of pneumonia, 7 percent fewer days with high fever and 15 percent fewer days sick with severe illness). There is ample evidence from our country which shows that fortification of milk with Vitamin A and D is an effective and safe strategy to reduce related deficiency diseases.