Open Session on Food Fortification – An Innovative Solution to Overcome Malnutrition
Time – 2:00 pm | 27th – 28th Oct 2021
India Food & Nutrition Innovation Summit 2021 was a virtual summit being organized by FICCI and Thinking Forks Consulting with support from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries for showcasing New Age Disruptive Products, Technologies, and Scientific Advances in Food & Nutrition.
Hexagon Nutrition, in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), hosted a virtual webinar on “new age disruptive food products, technologies, and scientific advances” in the food and nutrition ecosystem, which will help India become healthier. People are prioritising health over everything else, and as a result of this positive shift in consumer behaviour, health and wellness companies are reinventing their products and services to match the increased demand.
Mr. Abhinav Singh, Head – FICCI Food Processing Division & CIFTI, along with Co-Panelist, Ms. Rinka Banerjee, Founder & Director, Thinking Forks Consulting set the context at the beginning of the session. With the impact of pandemic food fortification and innovations in making nutrition accessible and affordable.
While expressing gratitude to FICCI, Mr. Vikram Kelkar, Managing Director, Hexagon Nutrition Pvt. Ltd. shared that Food Fortification is an area where Hexagon Nutrition is working very hard by engaging in public-private partnerships to make India Malnutrition free country.
He shared his views and insights on Food Fortification: A scientific solution to overcome malnutrition which needs focus and contributions amongst all stakeholders to overcome the monster called Malnutrition. “As per the Global Hunger Index 2021 (which determines malnutrition and hunger), India ranks at 101 which is of serious concern. Malnutrition amongst children and mothers is a big public health concern in India and needs an urgent address”, he said.
He also highlighted the underlying causes of hidden hunger, namely: consumption of foods low in micronutrients, lack of access to clean water & sanitation, insufficient food intake & losses during food preparation / other factors that impact micronutrients bioavailability. He also shared the immediate causes that lead to hidden hunger such as inadequate availability of micronutrients and diseases that cause a loss in micronutrients.
“Over 3 billion people across the globe are affected by micronutrient deficiencies in both developed and underdeveloped countries. Micronutrient deficiencies have serious consequences and health implications throughout the lifecycle which has some serious impact on the overall development of an individual. The inadequate micronutrient status affects the unborn fetus in the womb to the elderly population.
Therefore, some of the strategies that can be implemented to control & alleviate micronutrient deficiencies are micronutrient supplementation, nutrition education, promoting exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, optimum complementary feeding, therapeutic nutrition, food fortification, and dietary diversity”, he further added.
While describing the cost-effective, scientific and scalable solution of food fortification, he also mentioned the history of food fortification as to how in India its been a proven public health strategy to prevent and tackle micronutrient deficiencies. Staple foods such as edible oil, milk, salt, rice, wheat flour are currently being successfully fortified to reduce the burden of malnutrition to improve the large section of societies. Fortifying staple foods such as rice with Iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12 can help tackle anemia which is a huge public health problem in India today. He also showcased how FRKs (Fortified Rice Kernels) are produced & manufactured. The cost-effectiveness of fortified foods has proven to improve health status in a short period. The Indian regulations and interventions such as Poshan Abhiyan, Mid Day meal scheme, Food fortification initiative by FSSAI, and thought-provoking campaigns by celebrities have helped imbibe the awareness drive amongst the population to popularize the use of fortifies F+ Foods, he said.
Under the integrated fortification project, Publicly funded programs such as the mid-day meal program in which fortified food is served, ICDS, PDS, and mass fortification of foods will enhance the food fortification initiative on the whole. The state food Fortification index by FSSAI considers several parameters of food fortification including awareness, coverage, quality control parameters, etc. Several initiatives are in place for scaling up food fortification in India, but what’s needed to further scale up food fortification is endorsement efforts and clarification of food fortification myths, setting standards following norms and necessary parameters, training, and capacity building & new product development, he further added.
Vikram mentioned that, “We at Hexagon Nutrition believe in collaboration strongly. Working together with various developmental sectors, institutions of national importance & the public sector will ensure safe and nutritious foods to the targeted vulnerable population such as pregnant/ lactating mothers and children and will also facilitate interventions of partner ministries in geographical areas of their choice.”
On being asked by Ms. Rinka Banerjee, Founder & Director, Thinking Forks Consulting on how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the outlook and has affected the whole food fortification ecosystem, Mr. Vikram Kelkar, Managing Director, Hexagon Nutrition Pvt. Ltd. spoke that, “The Covid-19 pandemic has brought immunity and health to the center-stage. Earlier it was more about reactive health but now we have seen a surge in the sale of vitamin & mineral supplements which proves that people have now moved towards preventive health and lifestyle changes. A lot of innovative products targeting immunity, especially processed food, bakery, and breakfast cereals have come into existence and FSSAI has also come up with guidelines to standardize the regulation and reduce the risk of over-fortification.”
Ms. Rinka Banerjee, Founder & Director, Thinking Forks Consulting also touched upon the innovation while talking about the Rice Fortification & Fortified Rice Kernels and how it can help masses combat micronutrients deficiencies.
A lot of interesting questions came pouring in. One of them was, “How do you ensure that the micronutrients that the products are being fortified with are getting absorbed by the body when disseminated to the population”? To which Mr. Vikram Kelkar answered that, “Extrusion is having a wide application while we speak of technology, and Analogues of Dal have also been made in the past. Testing and validation of micronutrients is a very vast yet grey area in India. Contamination of heavy metals and controlling the same in the end products are some of the other areas where Indian food producers need to focus and need to be mindful of the food ingredients they use.”
Another Interesting question was, “In India, 40% of consumers consume various beverages daily, so what scope of Food Fortification do you see when it comes to the fortification of beverages”?
To this Mr, Vikram responded that “Beverages have been fortified in India in a big way – both dairy such as lassi, buttermilk, yogurt & non-dairy beverages such as soy/almond milk and vitaminized waters, etc. A lot of technological advancements have appeared when it comes to micronutrient quality and taste.”
Ms. Banerjee also highlighted and asked views on how 7-8% of packaged food in countries such a Vietnam and Malaysia are fortified food whereas in India it is half of that. To which Mr. Kelkar responded that “Looking at the alarming situation of India where every 2nd woman is is anemic, every 3rd child is hungry/stunted, every 5th youngster is obese, and more than 70% of the Indian population consumes foods less than half RDAs in their daily food. Malnutrition affects 68% of India’s children under 5 years of age – Therefore, the kind of economic losses in terms of productivity and death is huge & hence Govt has got safety net programs which reach masses and hence the initiatives by Govt. can be the game changers as in a short period we can see faster changes hence mandatory fortification is necessary so that private sectors also take this up as a serious business.”
“The crucial area of Women’s Nutrition should be given due focus & importance, especially for pregnant, lactating, and adolescent women. The specific nutritional needs that the women undertake are tremendous and demanding as compared to the normal set population. Focusing on Women’s Nutrition will ensure a more productive and healthier nation, Hexagon Nutrition also targets multiple food formats to innovate women-specific products via Food fortification to contribute to the above-mentioned focus”, Vikram concluded.