According to FSSAI Director (Food Fortification Resource Centre/FFRC) Inoshi Sharma, the mandatory regulations will apply to all food and beverage companies dealing in edible oil and milk within India’s organised food sector.
“At present it is not mandatory to fortify these foods, but we will be issuing regulations in about three or four months that will make it compulsory for all edible oil and milk from any manufacturer in the open market to be fortified,” Sharma told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“This applies to all companies within the relevant organized sectors in India, so the big food firms and SMEs alike – but of course if the producer is not part of the organized sector and is just selling milk from the two cows in his backyard, then this will not apply.
The new FSSAI new regulations will allow for higher levels of fortification to be achieved by permitting fortificants to be added up till amounts that will translate to provide between 30% to 50% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).
“Previously there were concerns that eating too much of fortified foods could lead to toxicity, hence it was limited, but we have found that this range will be safe for consumers as even eating the foods through the day won’t make them cross their RDA levels,” she said.
When queried if any resistance or challenges were expected towards these mandates, Sharma was very optimistic that the industry would be receptive.
“Many big manufacturers are already producing fortified products, and it’s mostly smaller players who are left, so we don’t really anticipate too much of a challenge for implementation,” she added.
“We have a wide network of partners in place as well as a lot of resource material out there to help all companies who want to make this change, so it should be relatively straightforward.
“What’s important is we want to align the supply chain - So on the supply side, we’ve got producers, distributors and retailers fortifying products and pushing these in the market, and if such fortified foods are made easily available in the market, it will be easier to gain consumer acceptance of these as well; whereas on the demand side, we create consumer awareness [to drive demand].”
+F for Fortification
Sharma also told us that the fortification of rice, wheat and salt has been mandated in the food given out via India’s public food distribution systems, such as to schools, lactating mothers or children under six years of age, although this has not made it to the open market as of yet.
“Since 2018, regulations have mandated this in the public systems – the government will procure the rice or wheat from farmers and producers, and fortify this during the milling and processing stage,” Sharma said.
“As of now, these are not yet mandated in the open market, although quite a few products do already exist, and we are working with the big manufacturers to try and get them to do this – for example we’ve spoken to some big rice millers in August, and will be doing the same for wheat next month.
Some of the major brands that are already pushing out fortified products include Annapurna and Pillsbury for wheat flour, Daawat for rice, Britannia and Mother Dairy for milk, TATA for salt and Freedom for oil.
All products that are fortified as per the standards laid out by FSSAI will be able to get a license and what is called the ‘+F’ endorsement.
“The +F endorsement is essentially a logo and brand to help consumers recognized certified fortified foods, and hopefully choose to include these in their diets,” Sharma explained.
“We also support products under the +F endorsement by putting these on our website, and local states going through the fortification process do look at our website and refer to these. So if any manufacturer has a fortified product, please do contact us about this so we can put it up there too.”
The major nutrient deficiencies being targeted via fortified edible oil and milk are Vitamins A and D, whereas fortified wheat flour and rice looks to tackle iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiencies, and fortified salt targets iodine. A new type of double-fortified salt looks to target both iron and iodine simultaneously.
“Previous studies have found a significant population, especially of women and children below five years old, to be anaemic, so there’s iron deficiency there, and we also saw vitamin deficiencies steadily increasing,” said Sharma.
“Many foods in the West are fortified, so they suffer less of these issues, but in India we have an issue of consumer choice in addition to the accessibility and availability of such foods.
“This is why we looked to staples such as rice, wheat and so on, as fortifying these makes it much easier to get these nutrients to the population.”
We’ll be shining the spotlight on Reformulation and Fortification in our Growth Asia 2020 interactive broadcast series. Register for free here.