Webinar on Making Food Fortification Scalable and Sustainable Role of Partnerships

Thirty percent of the world’s population is unable to realize their full physical and mental potential due to iron, iodine, and vitamin A deficiencies. Micronutrient fortification of regularly consumed foods is a cost-effective method that can reach huge populations. It is critical to identify a set of priority measures and to begin continual communication amongst the various sectors to catalyze the execution of schemes that will permanently eliminate micronutrient deficiency. The members of a national alliance must work closely together on specific topics including foods that can be fortified , promotion, distribution, and consumption. Such collaborations could benefit all sectors: National governments could reap national health, economic, and political benefits; food companies could gain a competitive advantage in an expanding consumer marketplace; the scientific, development, and donor communities could make an impact by achieving global goals for eliminating micronutrient malnutrition; and by demanding fortified foods, consumers empower themselves to achieve their full social and economic potential.

In the light of the above scenario NIFTEM in association with GAIN India & Hexagon Nutrition organized a Webinar on “Making Food Fortification Scalable and Sustainable” where the experts talked about the role of partnerships with different stakeholders to augment the foundation of Food Fortification.

Dr. Anupama Singh, Head of Dept. (FE), NIFTEM, welcomed all the dignitaries, faculty members, and participants who joined the program. The fruitful insights shared by our experienced and eminent speakers will invigorate the interest and create awareness at large-scale webinars and focussed talks like these will benefit the participants and attendees all across, she said.

Speaking about setting up the demonstration units & building the capacity of the Industry partners: Role of an Industry partner, Mr. Arun Om Lal, Sr. Vice President, Hexagon Nutrition, shared his perspective in detail. He highlighted that the 3 key reasons due to which a dire need for partnership arises to make food fortification scalable & sustainable are, Malnutrition, Hidden Hunger & Fortification of staple & processed foods. “The best vehicle to remove the hidden hunger or micronutrient deficiencies is Food Fortification as India has a very high burden of both malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. This method is cost-effective in terms of implementation and consumption from the marketplace & is a proven sustainable strategy to improve the health and nutrition status of all population groups”, he said.

He further added that Food Fortification is a science-based industrial process, that requires building the capacity of food industry partners to:

  1. Understand the rationale for adopting fortification &
  2. Acquiring the skills for undertaking appropriate fortification of staples

Speaking of the collaboration between GAIN, NIFTEM & Hexagon Nutrition, Mr. Arun Om Lal, showcased the scope of Hexagon Nutrition as far as the infrastructure and the collaboration is concerned. “We provide technical & appropriate financial support to set up the demonstration units for the fortification of staple foods such as edible oil, milk & wheat flour, within the center of Excellence (CEFF), set up at NIFTEM premises. This includes undertaking the survey of the premises by skilled consultants & preparing the blueprints for the demonstration units, and getting approvals from the stakeholders at NIFTEM & GAIN India. It also includes equipment manufacture, installation, commission, and maintenance for the demonstration units to be set up for edible oil and wheat flour fortification and the additional equipment for the milk plant, as per the approved specifications”, he further added.

Hexagon Nutrition also extends the support in terms of capacity building by providing training to the CEFF & NIFTEM faculty & staff who would be involved in the whole ecosystem. The areas of training include the process of Fortification powered by GAIN India, sourcing of quality-assured premixes, and maintenance of equipment on a daily/weekly/monthly & annual basis, he further elaborated.

Speaking on building partnerships Ms. Deepti Gulati, Head of Programmes, GAIN India, shared her perspective on providing technical support and building institutional capacity: Role of Development sector. “Staple Food fortification not only enriches foods, but it also enriches lives. The Indian constitution has considered Nutrition as a very important aspect & has made several provisions that reflect the commitment of GAIN India to improve the nutrition & health of our population. The Indian constitution recognizes nutrition as a basic human right and a prerequisite for the attainment of a person’s full physical & intellectual potential. Further, we have the Poshan Abhiyaan or National Nutrition Mission of India that recommends food fortification as an effective complementary strategy to address hidden hunger”, she said.

Highlighting the concerns she added that, “We need to focus on hunger & malnutrition because they both stunt growth leading to compromised health & survival, life-long susceptibility to illness & disability, poor cognitive & learning abilities, low school retention rates & poverty. Therefore, GAIN India is committed to eradicating malnutrition and hence has visualized a world without malnutrition in which all people can access and consume safe and nutritious food. Therefore working with partners such as NIFTEM & Hexagon Nutrition, GAIN India aims at making healthier food choices more affordable, more available & more desirable. GAIN supports public-private partnerships to increase the access to the missing nutrients in diets necessary for the community and economies to be stronger & healthier.

While it’s evident that malnutrition affects the poorest the most, we cannot ignore the fact that anemia & low consumption of micronutrient-rich foods cuts across all socio-economic sections affecting all. Such high levels of hidden hunger seriously impair the development of human capital, labor productivity, and future social/economic development which can’t be counted as our demographic dividend.

She further elaborated that, “The scope of GAIN partnership includes technical assistance & project support (QA/QC), advocating for improved nutrition policies with all stakeholders & building multi-sector partnerships with academia, the food industry & FSSAI. To support the Centre of excellence for food fortification at NIFTEM GAIN India will play a role to:

  1. Develop staple-wise technical modules to be used for training programs at NIFTEM.
  2. Build a cadre of Master Trainers at NIFTEM & build the capacity of the technical support unit of CEFF in partnership with Hexagon Nutrition.
  3. Support the designing of curriculum for structured training courses on staple food fortification for different stakeholders
  4. Support establishment & operationalism of a Joint Advisory Committee under the leadership of Hon’ble VC, NIFTEM.
  5. Set up an India premix facility at NIFTEM in partnership with Hexagon Nutrition to ensure the accreditation of premix suppliers.”

    The Q & A session saw a great set of questions being discussed. A lot of myths and facts about staple food fortification were busted by the eminent speakers.

    From biochemical changes to taste, sensory changes, rancidity issues, flavor, aroma, texture, advantages, industrial techniques to premix quality – everything was covered in the Q&A section of the webinar.

    The scope of techniques like cold plasma and high-pressure processing in Rice fortification was also discussed.

    Concluding the webinar, Dr. Komal Chauhan, Head of Dept. (FST), NIFTEM, gave a Vote of Thanks appreciating the collaboration between NIFTEM, GAIN India & Hexagon Nutrition.

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