In order to showcase India’s progress in the last 5 years in the area of nutrition for the masses, a symposium, aptly entitled “Food Fortification in Rajasthan: Enriching Foods, Enriching Lives” was organized in Jaipur, Rajasthan on May 4, 2015 by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR). Almost 70% of Indian women and girls suffer from iron deficiency anemia. Other micronutrient deficiencies like vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, vitamin B12, iodine, folic acid, vitamin B2 etc, are also present. The dietary deficiencies of vitamins A & D and folate have been highlighted by recent studies carried out by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) and the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO).
The deficiencies were far below the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). Moreover, maternal malnutrition is the single-most important cause of low birth weight (LBW) babies (<2.5kg) in India. Therefore, fortified foods, which contain these nutrients will go a long way in making up the deficiency. Importantly, staple foods like wheat flour, milk and edible oil can be fortified so that the whole population of India can benefit.
GAIN’s Country Manager has indicated that since Indians have a high level of micronutrient deficiency, there was an urgent need to address this problem, and that supplying fortified food could be a feasible solution. He suggested that initiating public-private-partnerships (PPP) in the area of food fortification would bring in both the private and government players to address the issue of micronutrient deficiency in a holistic manner. GAIN’s efforts have been in the area of large scale food fortification (LSFF) in the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. It has been working to improve the quality of the mid-day meal system in schools, as well as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
Importantly, over 540,000 metric tons (MT) of milk, 500,000 MT of edible oil and 360,000 MT of wheat flour is being fortified in MP and Rajasthan for 90 million people every year. The Executive Director of GAIN stressed that safe food was a basic human right, and that it was necessary that food is produced, processed and marketed in a safe manner so that only the best product reaches the consumer. He further added that GAIN was striving to deliver quality food in order to build stronger communities and economies, and he was optimistic that malnutrition could be eliminated in the near future.
The President of IIHMR has indicated that Rajasthan government in its budget has allocated fortified food for distribution through the public distribution system (PDS). He further added that IIHMR’s collaboration with GAIN for over 4 decades has reached out to various industries that now produce 2,40,000 MT of fortified edible oil annually, 5 lakh MT of fortified milk annually, and 1 lakh MT of fortified wheat flour annually that has reached over 1 million children daily through the centralized kitchens. This has addressed the issues of micronutrient malnutrition in the state to a large extent. Food fortification is very cost-effective. It costs just Rs. 0.05 – Rs. 0.10 to fortify 1kg of wheat flour or edible oil, and Rs. 0.02 per kg of milk. Therefore, food fortification has the potential to improve the quality of life for both children and adults, and all that is required is to harness the potential of fortified food, implement it and scale it up, in order to improve the life of millions.