India fortification plans: Regulator FSSAI releases consultation paper

By Millette Burgos

- Last updated on GMT

India's regulator pledges to close the gap in micronutrient malnutrition © iStock
India's regulator pledges to close the gap in micronutrient malnutrition © iStock

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The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has pledged to ‘close the gap’ in micronutrient malnutrition after releasing a consultation paper on food fortification.

The FSSAI paper concerns the fortification of meals served on government-supported food programmes, and the public and other stakeholders have been asked to give their comments and suggestions on the proposal within the next six weeks.

“Fortification is a cost-effective and reliable means of reducing micronutrient malnutrition,”​ said FSSAI. “The goal is not to provide 100% daily requirements of micronutrients but rather ‘fill the gap’ between intake from other sources and daily micronutrients needs.”

Programmes named in the proposal are the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme and Mid-Day-Meal (MDM).

FSSAI and the Ministry of Women and Child Development proposed fortifying three main staples found in most Indian diets – wheat flour, oil and salt.

Wheat flour will be fortified with iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12. Oil will have vitamin A and D fortification, while salt gets iron and iodine.

Double-fortified salt will season food served at ICDS and MDM centres by December 2018. Food using fortified oil and wheat flour will be served by December 2019.

In the proposal, FSSAI said it decided to roll it out in phases because it needs to firm up supply and distribution sources of the staples as well as conduct information campaigns to create awareness of the benefits of consuming fortified food.

“Global experience has shown that, more than a single approach, a combination of several strategies is required to significantly reduce micronutrient deficiencies,”​ said FSSAI. “Among these, staple food fortification offers a promising opportunity to deliver micronutrient rich foods to large populations.”

FSSAI will also encourage the commercial availability of fortified products on the open market, said the paper.

Earlier this month FSSAI said manufacturers of fortified flour, oil, milk and salt would require a government certificate to verify nutrient claims.

The circular 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.

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.

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