The Union Cabinet has approved a scheme to distribute fortified rice under government programmes.
Food Corporation of India and state agencies have already procured 88.65 LMT (lakh tonnes) of fortified rice for supply and distribution.
Phases of implementation –
The following three phases are envisaged for full implementation of the initiative –
- Phase-I: Covering ICDS and PM POSHAN in India all over by March, 2022 which is under implementation.
- Phase-II: Phase I above plus TPDS and Other Welfare Schemes in all Aspirational and High Burden Districts on stunting (total 291 districts) by March 2023.
- Phase-Ill: Phase II above plus covering the remaining districts of the country by March 2024.
What is rice fortification?
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) defines fortification as “deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients in a food so as to improve the nutritional quality of food and to provide public health benefit with minimal risk to health”.
- Various technologies are available to add micronutrients to regular rice, such as coating, dusting, and ‘extrusion’. The last mentioned involves the production of fortified rice kernels (FRKs) from a mixture using an ‘extruder’ machine. It is considered to be the best technology for India.
- The fortified rice kernels are blended with regular rice to produce fortified rice.
How does the extrusion technology to produce FRK work?
- Dry rice flour is mixed with a premix of micronutrients, and water is added to this mixture. The mixture is passed through a twin-screw extruder with heating zones, which produces kernels similar in shape and size to rice. These kernels are dried, cooled, and packaged for use. FRK has a shelf life of at least 12 months.
- As per guidelines issued by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, the shape and size of the fortified rice kernel should “resemble the normal milled rice as closely as possible”. According to the guidelines, the length and breadth of the grain should be 5 mm and 2.2 mm respectively.
But why does rice have to be fortified in the first place?
- India has very high levels of malnutrition among women and children. According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anaemic and every third child is stunted.
- Fortification of food is considered to be one of the most suitable methods to combat malnutrition.
- Rice is one of India’s staple foods, consumed by about two-thirds of the population. Per capita rice consumption in India is 6.8 kg per month. Therefore, fortifying rice with micronutrients is an option to supplement the diet of the poor.
What are the standards for fortification?
- Under the Ministry’s guidelines, 10 g of FRK must be blended with 1 kg of regular rice.
- According to FSSAI norms, 1 kg of fortified rice will contain the following: iron (28 mg-42.5 mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram), and vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram). Rice may also be fortified with zinc (10 mg-15 mg), vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), vitamin B-1 (1 mg-1.5 mg), vitamin B-2 (1.25 mg-1.75 mg), vitamin B-3 (12.5 mg-20 mg) and vitamin B-6 (1.5 mg-2.5 mg) per kg.