The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) organized the National Nutrition Conclave focussing on Staple Food fortification: challenges and emerging opportunities that will strengthen the ecosystem of nutrition because of the pandemic. In the Conclave, the leaders of the food industry and government shared recent innovations in the field of Staple food fortification and strategies to universalize the same
Mr. Tarun Vij, Country Director, GAIN India in his opening remarks highlighted that “CII has always prioritized nutrition in national agenda and has collaborated with multiple stakeholders like FSSAI and development sector partners to foster large scale food fortification. All these multifaceted initiatives have increased reach, awareness, advocacy & technical assistance across several states to address hidden hunger/micronutrient deficiencies.”
Elaborating on the milestones that FSSAI is considering, Ms. Inoshi Sharma, Director SBCD, FSSAI said that, “Considering the economic burden of micronutrient deficiencies & NCDs amongst Rural and urban population, scaling up the staple food fortification is the need of the hour.” She further added, by scaling up the direction some of the initiatives by FSSAI include the popularization of the +F logo, providing training to Govt. & Private sector personnel, collaboration with DUSPD, standardizing processes to the testing of products & extending technical support to the state.
“Further, the immediate next steps that FSSAI would want is, because of the mandatory fortification of milk & oil soon a series of national-level webinars will be seen exclusively for milk & oil manufacturers and people involved in the industry. This will gear them up for the upcoming regulations.” Retailers, E-commerce sellers, people at the grass-root level all need to be made aware of these initiatives to bring about the balance in demand and supply side.
Sharing her experiences in terms of success and challenges in the distribution of fortified rice as a part of the PDS system, Smt. Surya Kumari, IAS, Vice-Chairman, and Managing Director, Andhra Pradesh State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited shared that as a state Andhra Pradesh has been putting consistent efforts to bring staple food fortification into its most active form. In collaboration with FSSAI & Tata Trust, we have taken initiatives of implementing fortified staple foods in residential hostels which have given great results in the overall health parameters and that too with very modest quantities.
“As a part of the CSR initiative, large industrialists need to come forward and rise to commercialize viable staple food fortification on a large scale filling the demand and supply gaps. Open market availability of fortified food will make people realize the importance of fortified rice and people will consume it compulsorily,” she added.
Throwing light from a consumer’s perspective on the fortification of wheat products, Mr. Ganesh Sundararaman, SBU Chief Executive, (Staples, Snacks & Meals), ITC Foods shared that amongst the host of products ITC always strives to bring the best of taste and good health. “Organizations like us need to take responsibility to reduce NCDs spreading rapidly in a holistic manner which consumers also accept most readily. Various nutrition programs have done a lot for the community and we should be continuously doing it. Fortification needs a viable vehicle and thus staple foods are obvious candidates that can be the best carriers for fortification.
As per research, Rice & wheat are central, consumed by masses & are set apart from sugar, spices, tea, coffee, as these food items work in combination and deliver a tasteful experience for the consumer. Taste, color change, darkening, etc are some of the areas that are still being worked upon. “Implementing wheat flour fortification at a large scale is still a challenge, and now ITC is focussing on biofortified form, the doubling of iron and zinc is something that can be done to increase the absorbability and spread the choice of the food products to the consumer. Looking at the NFHS 2019-20 data all these measures will help reduce the alarming findings and ultimately the micronutrient deficiencies,” he further added.
Talking about rice fortification, Mr. Ashutosh Sinha, Head Agri-Business, LT foods said that, “We learn a new aspect of Rice fortification each day. “We filter rice via many choices and categories before choosing the right one for fortification. Size, shape, color requirements are also very important factors that need to be considered as the market is evolving. A capacity of 3000 – 4000 m tonnes per month is what LT foods currently holds. Looking at the state govt. and development partners we have been fortunate to work with the best of the partners who helped us create the right kind of products
Mr. Arun Om Lal, Sr. Vice President, Hexagon Nutrition enlightened the audience not only on the Staple Fortification and Malnutrition but also on Processed Food Fortification such as Cereal products, Bakery products, Fruit Juices which is issue by FSSAI as Processed Food Regulation on 18th Dec’2020. He not only highlighted the importance of micronutrient premixes in food fortification with regard to quality assurance (analysis of nutrients in NABL accredited laboratories and relevant assay analysis of nutrients) but also on quality control (use of food-grade nutrients for processing of micronutrient premixes, compliance to food safety certifications such as GMP, FSSC 22000, ISO 9001).
He stated that, “Fortification means intentionally adding key vitamins and minerals likeVitamin A, Vitamin D, iron, iodine, zinc, etc to foods that are either absent or present in small amounts to enrich the foods. For fortifying processed food, staples, or supplements we need to enrich them with micronutrient premixes. “Premixes for food fortification include ingredients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other functional ingredients. He also emphasized how the nutritional landscape has gone forward from staple fortification to other food applications that are required in today’s pandemic and post-pandemic times.
Formulating Micronutrient Premixes (Balanced FOOD GRADE Nutrients AS PER ACCEPTED RDA LEVELS BY Regulatory Authority), Developing and processing micronutrient premixes is a very scientific and precise process of creating the right balance in the use of metabolically active nutrients and compounds for maintaining the quality and appropriate organoleptic characteristics of final food applications. The perfect composition of each micronutrient premix is the most important aspect to deliver the best quality premix in terms of color and texture for the final food application. HN adheres to the guidelines and protocols set by FSSAI for the nutraceutical industry.
“Hexagon Nutrition is also involved in Innovative R&D development and lab analysis of single nutrients and micronutrient premixes thereby supporting the Food Processing Industry, beverage industry, bakery industry, nutrition supplements, dietary food applications in synchronization with the ICMR–RDA specifications, and FSSAI Regulatory protocols so that the nutrient intakes are not exceeding the safe limits”, he further shared.
Dr. Shariqua Yunus Khan, Nutrition Specialist and Head of Unit: Nutrition and School feeding, WFP said, “We have been working with the social safety net programs. WFP works extensively on food fortification and the space of fortified blended foods. Over the past decade, WFP has been focussing largely on rice fortification (since 2010) when we did the large scale rice fortification pilot in remote tribal areas. For the acceptability of fortified staples, we have not come across any acceptability issues at all”, she shared. The GST of 18% is applicable on rice which is a need staple and at the correct policy level that needs to be taken up.
Mr. B.V. Krishna Rao, Managing Director, Pattabhi Agro Foods Pvt Ltd. highlighted the media campaigns on Rice Fortification. “We have been trying to market fortified rice amongst the general public through the PDS system. Change in color of rice has created some level of resistance and apprehension amongst common people. We came up with ad campaigns to educate people on Rice Fortification. It has been a journey and now slowly the acceptance level is increasing with the support of Tata Trust, MoHFw, and Govt. of India the situation is improving day by day.”
Industry veteran, Mr. Prabodh Halde, Head Regulatory Marico Ltd, Past President AFST India shared the key lessons learned in the journey of food fortification especially oil fortification. Micronutrients play a very important role in oil fortification which is a major part of the consumer’s life. Some of the major challenges faced are selling loose oil without fortification and the cost of vitamin premix, for which we need to have some kind of assured supply in this current pandemic.
Even after these challenges, we have not stopped the production of oil at Marico. Food fortification should introduces a dedicated subject in Food Tech and M.Tech courses to popularize food fortification at an early learning stage. Micronutrients such as Vitamin C, Zinc have become more important due to recent immunity-boosting nutrient requirements but we need to have a more stringent policy and regulations.
Moreover, The event concluded with an interesting Q and A session where Mr. Arun Om Lal, Sr. Vice President, Hexagon Nutrition answered maximum queries and closing remarks by Mr. Tarun Vij, Country Director, GAIN India.
Mr. Arun Om Lal, Sr. Vice President, Hexagon Nutrition shared a few facts about the toxicity of micronutrients in Food Fortification. “These fortificants are food-grade and in compliance with the RDA, ICMR specifications, and FSSAI regulatory protocols so that the nutrient intakes are not exceeding the safe limits,” he said. Even if it is in excess amounts it gets excreted naturally. He also shared that iron loss in Fortified Rice Kernels sometimes happens due to the process involve but while formulating premixes.
Mr. Ashutosh Sinha, Head Agri-Business, LT foods also threw light on the current micronutrient testing protocols, processes, and capacity. At the industry level from procurement to distribution, testing is done at all levels very stringently. HN has been working with BASF as well for developing the kits for standardizing the micronutrient analysis and testing.
In a nation such as India where the need for the hour is a shift in lifestyle, food fortification plays an important role in pushing boundaries by providing more for less. The process is slowly but steadily changing food habits and is helping a nation widely devoid of nutritional food to tackle the issue. Hopefully energized webinars like these & CII, FSSAI initiatives will reach the eyes and ears of our population and a day will come when most companies will manufacturing fortifing food products. Session 2: Staple food fortification: Opportunities, challenges, and way forward