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Indian regulator to set fortification standards to boost public health

By RJ Whitehead , 02-Jan-2017

© iStock
© iStock

In a move that paves the way for the inclusion of fortified foods in government-run schemes, manufacturers of fortified flour, oil, milk and salt will require a government certificate to verify nutrient claims.

A notification by the food regulator indicated that the move was also an attempt to improve national nutrition levels, which are flagging.

It said it would allow for the introduction of fortified food in government-run schemes, such as midday school meals and the public distribution system. 

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India issued the circular, which set new guidelines for foods fortified with vitamins, iodine, folic acid and other nutrients, including minimum and maximum levels.

Manufacturers will now have to give an “undertaking” on quality assurance and “submit evidence” of the food safety steps taken. Product testing must be done at approved government laboratories.

The move hasn’t been met with universal approval, with some groups complaining that it would begin a process that would transform the current provision of fresh-cooked meals with fortified food packets.

One Supreme Court-appointed food commissioner called it a “clear attempt by government to override Supreme Court guidelines against the use of fortified food in government programmes”.

Harsh Mander said that the government had an agenda to promote food corporations, which stand to benefit greatly from government-run food schemes. Likewise, opposition lawmakers have also alleged that contracts have gone to individuals close to the ruling party.

Pawan Agarwal, chief executive officer of FSSAI, said the regulation will initially cover wheat flour, rice, oil and milk, while all other food items would be gradually brought under a comprehensive regulation.

Many companies have been promoting fortified daily food items such as wheat flour, milk products and rice without any quality assurance to consumers. We are introducing a mechanism to ensure that they deliver on their promise,” one FSSAI official told Hindustan Times.

The new rule will supersede all previous fortification regulations except those in the law on infant milk and food items.

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