India, being a developing country, has a twin burden of malnutrition and infectious diseases, as well as lifestyle-related degenerative disorders like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and malignancies. Apart from these issues, India suffers from vitamin deficiencies, which harm growth and development. The National Nutrition Mission (POSHAN Abhiyan) recognizes staple food fortification as one of the most cost-effective and complementary strategies for reducing micronutrient deficiency across all demographic groups.
The importance of Vitamins A and D in strengthening immunity has long been known. Vitamin D is crucial for bone health, and children’s growth might remain stunted if they don’t get enough of it. According to recent research, the population has a high incidence of these two vitamin deficiencies, which is a significant public health concern.
Synnex in association with India’s leading organizations brought together this session on Dairy & Beverage Fortification: Challenges & Opportunities. The idea was to bring together industry, academia, and policymakers on a single forum to explore the role and extent of fortification in India’s fight against micronutrient malnutrition.
The session covered the effectiveness of fortification in the dairy and beverage industry.Milk is an essential staple consumed by masses & can potentially improve the status of micronutrient malnutrition in India. If we use milk as a vehicle to transfer the micronutrients, the nutritional status of a large base of consumers will be elevated. The different elements about Dairy & Beverage Fortifications covered were:
Regulation, challenges & opportunities of Dairy Food Fortification
Principles of Milk Fortification
Effectiveness of Dairy Food Fortification
Benefits of Dairy Food Fortification
Improving nutritional quality of dairy products through fortification
Panel Moderator, Prashant Bhat, Chief R&D Officer, Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetables Pvt. Ltd set the context by laying the foundation of the session He highlighted the key micronutrient deficiencies as per the research and reports of the leading Govt. agencies of India. He said that the key micronutrient deficiencies of Iron, B-12, Folic Acid, Vitamin A&D, Iodine are alarmingly high in India. According to a study by MoCWF in the age group of 15-49yrs, 50% of women, 25% of men, 7 out of every 10 children are deficient in Iron in India. Talking about Iron & B12 fortification of staple food he added that Indians consume approx. 300 gms of wheat flour daily yet wheat fortification at present is being done at the branded level leaving the local chakki flour which people consume widely, hence making it one of the key challenges in India. The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in India is 95% and the hit it has on productivity and economic loss is huge. Looking at the opportunities, India being the largest milk sufficient country in the last 50 years produces 189 million MT tonnes-per-annum / 50 Cr Litres-per-day (50% is packed) of milk. Milk – is a routinely consumed food item and the Milk industry on its own comprises 10 lakh Cr.
Suresh Patidar, Sr. GM & Head Quality, Heritage Foods highlighted the process of Milk Fortification and the SOPs involved throughout the process. The process is very simple and uncomplicated at the pasteurization & standardization Silo level under hygienic circumstances. The vitamin premix used should be consumer-friendly, and should have passed the required regulations and certifications.
At Heritage Foods, we aggressively participate in food fortification initiatives such as Eat Right India, Swachh Bharat Yatra & other Food Fortification Campaigns. We are the 1st South India-based company that took the opportunity & initiated milk fortification at a large commercial level with the support of KHPT. In an endeavor to combat micronutrient deficiencies, Heritage Foods regularly conducts practice sessions as per the FSSAI Guidelines for dairy technocrats for milk fortification, especially in Telangana Region, he added.
He also shared some of the key benefits of Milk Fortification with Vitamin A which included, Eyesight preservation, better maternal nutrition status & immunity- organ function enhancement. Whereas the benefits of Vitamin D supplementation in milk promote healthy bones, teeth, lung, and cardiovascular functions, as well as support metabolic management.
Sebastian Joseph, Head QA, Dodla Dairy, Hyderabad covering the basics of food fortification threw light on the deliberate need to increase the micronutrients in the food to improve the nutritional status of the community. He also listed the 6 guiding principles of food fortification which were primarily:
Fortification should not adversely affect the odor, texture, taste & appearance of food.
Nutrient added should be high on bioavailability.
Fortification should show visible positive health benefits.
Fortification should aim to eliminate micronutrient deficiencies.
Food Fortification to be made mandatory based on scientific evidence.
Fortified food should fulfill 1/3rd of the daily recommended dietary allowance for an adult.
Milk Fortification helps to enrich the milk to a level to satisfy the RDA Recommendations & top up the lost vitamins such as Vitamin A & D. When fat is removed from full-fat milk to produce toned and double toned milk, the depletion of the vitamins happen, plus Indians being low on physical activity and sunlight exposure develop severe micronutrient deficiencies. Fortifying milk with additional & essential nutrients will help in elevating the hidden hunger as already established by FSSAI & Govt. bodies, he added.
He also showcased various food and beverage items that can be fortified with mineral salts such as Calcium Gluconate, calcium lactate, or calcium lactate gluconate.
Speaking about the issues related to Fortification Standards & Regulatory Compliance, Vivek Arora, Senior Advisor, Tata Trusts spoke that regulation around the process of dairy fortification provides the required direction. Nowadays all variants are being fortified, & currently, the standards of Milk Fortification are notified & there is a draft gazette notification for processed foods that mentions that any dairy-based food can be prepared with fortified dairy products using them as ingredients. He also shared how to go about the regulation/license registration by simple procedure on FSSAI Website, through which product details along with fortified logo along with the endorsement mentioning the license number will be given. After that, the printing of the dairy products should mention the label and packaging hence fulfilling the requirements as per FSSAI. Some of the key challenges with milk & dairy-based beverages mentioned by him were:
No specific standards – leading to varied delivery.
No standardization for the premix industry to save costs.
Absence of sophisticated equipment and trained staff to perform quality testing of vitamins in premixes.
There is a need for a ready kit for easy and faster detection of the quality of milk at the industry level.
The dairy-based beverage is an emerging trend with projections of over 5200 million USD market and a CAGR of 25.5% by 2026. The shift from carbonated drinks towards these fortified dairy beverages meets the staple food fortification standards and does not fall under the category of HFSS, thereby providing 15-30% of RDAfrom 600 Kcals. These include beverages such as Chaach, Lassi, malt-based beverages, cereal-based beverages, herb-based milk & smoothies.
Sharing the Fortification challenges in India, Ravi Chandran Ranganathan, CEO, EnNutrica highlighted that Indian consumers are majorly influenced by negatively marketed food items. If we need to encourage positive sentiments on Food Fortification we must educate the customers via informative commercials, encourage people to take Vitamin D supplements regularly, and support Govt. initiatives to control misinformation, and regulate the Misuse of Milk Terminology. If Fortification is Implemented we should make small players also follow the standards and regulations.
Megha Mandke, Lead – Technical Marketing, Hexagon Nutrition laid stress on improving the nutritional quality of Dairy products through fortification. She emphasized that milk is an important component of our daily lives and is not only loaded with the goodness of Macronutrients but has umpteen micronutrients as well. She quoted statistics from the NDDB which states that milk production and per capita availability of milk in India has risen to 394 gms per day in 2019 from 178 gms per day in 1991. India has a very high burden of micronutrient deficiencies, which significantly contributes to the global disease burden In India. Vitamin D, A, Iron & Iodine are the main nutrients with public health significance and milk fortification provides consistent delivery of micronutrients which in result has maximum benefit & rapid impact. Highlighting the importance of Fortification In India she said that, Milk fortification is an excellent preventive, proven, safe, low-cost (costs less than 2paise per liter) approach that impacts the entire population without much affecting their behavior.
Showing the impact of Milk Fortification, she threw light on statistics which show a clear before and after numbers in Serum 25(OH) D levels after Vitamin D fortification. Clearly, children who received vitamin D fortified milk supplementation showed positive and effective results to deal with widespread Vitamin D deficiency.
The Q&A session saw speakers answer some of the intriguing questions on the overage of UHT Milk to the need of fortifying full cream milk, depletion, etc.
The event was attended by more than 1500 participants, which included students, public health researchers, stakeholders across the milk value chain such as milk producers, processors, marketers, dairy technologists, scientists, researchers, policymakers, regulatory bodies like FSSAI, GAIN, etc.