Fortified Mid-Day meals by December 2019 to fight malnutrition
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New Delhi: To fight malnutrition, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the ministry of women and child development have drafted a plan to make supply of fortified food mandatory for government-supported schemes such as Mid-Day meal at schools, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Public Distribution System (PDS).
By December 2019, Mid-Day meals at schools and food served at ICDS centres across the country will be made of fortified wheat flour and fortified edible oil while double iodised salt would be made mandatory by December 2018 , according to a notification by FSSAI, the country’s food regulator. Fortification is the process of adding essential micronutrients such as vitamins and iron to food grains or commodities. By January 2020, FSSAI wants to ensure supply of fortified wheat flour, edible oil and salt in the Public Distribution System (PDS) to take these to open market, the notification added.
About 11.58 lakh schools ran Mid-Day meal schemes in the country in 2013-14, and ICDS was run across 13.42 lakh centres in India as of December 2014, according to ministry of women and child development website. There are about 500,000 fair-price shops in India under the public distribution system, according to the PDS website.
A few states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are already using some of the fortified products. According to FSSAI, 84 countries worldwide have been using fortified products to fight malnutrition.
One of the key reasons for malnutrition is deficiency of micronutrients. According to government data, about 70% pre-school children suffer from iron deficiency anaemia and 57% pre- chool children have sub-clinical Vitamin A deficiency. Iodine deficiency is endemic in 85% of districts, besides Neutral Tube Defects which is the most common congenital malformation in India. “It is estimated that 50-70% of these birth defects are preventable,” FSSAI said.
“The goal is not to provide 100% daily requirements of micronutrients but rather ‘fill the gap’ between intake from other sources and daily micronutrients needs. Cost of micronutrients is clearly small on a per-person-per-year basis and its success requires active collaboration among several sectors. Fortification has a great potential of enriching the nutritional quality of food and in turn, enriching the life of millions of children; by giving them a healthy start to life which they rightly deserve,” FSSAI added in its notification.
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Adding micronutrients in food grains or other food items increases cost. FSSAI, however, has said the cost implication will not be high. According to FSSAI’s estimate, fortified wheat flour (atta) will incur an additional cost of 20-25 paisa per kg, fortified edible oil with added Vitamin A and D will increase the cost by 10 paisa per litre only. But double fortified iodised salt with iron, which can give 100% daily requirement of iron and 30-40% of iron, will incur an additional cost of Rs2-3 per kg, FSSAI noted.
Last month, FSSAI had set standards for fortified rice, wheat flour, milk, edible oil and salt. According to the standards, fortified wheat flour should contain prescribed quantity of added iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12. It may also be fortified with zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, and Vitamin B6. Over a period, FSSAI will set standards for a few more fortified products.