The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has decided to operationalise standards for fortified rice kernels (FRKs) with immediate effect to strengthen the national-level fortification programme in the country.

As per the order dated June 23, the food safety authority said that while the draft regulation with regards to standards for FRKs has been framed and notified on May 25, finalising this amendment regulation after stakeholder consultation will take some more time.

“Meanwhile, to strengthen the National level fortification programme and its implementation, it has been decided to operationalise the provisions related to FRKs with immediate effect,” it added.

What are FRKs?

FRKs are rice-shaped kernels containing vitamins and minerals produced through the extrusion technique. They need to resemble normal rice kernels as closely as possible in terms of aroma, texture and taste.

The regulations that have been operationalised specify standards for rice flour which is used in preparation for FRKs. It also specifies standards for the vitamin and mineral premix (VMP), which is a combination of micronutrients in desired proportion ready for use as a fortificant in the manufacturing of FRKs.

Vitamins and minerals are added to pulverised milled rice and this mixture is then used to develop FRKs, which are then blended with traditional rice.

The standards specify the permissible levels of iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12 for blending ratios of 1:50 and 1:100. Permissible levels of other fortificants such as zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3 and Vitamin B6 have also been specified.

“FRKs shall only be sold for industrial purposes for manufacturing fortified rice. It shall neither be sold in loose form nor to be sold directly to the consumer,” the regulations added.

Specify labelling standards

The regulations also specify labelling standards for FRK packages. “Each package of FRK shall carry a statement on the ratio in which FRK is to be blended with rice kernels ―1:50 or 1:100,” the regulations added.

The FRK packages will also need to carry other disclaimers. “Not to be consumed as an independent product” and “Not to be construed as a substitute for rice and rice flour” will need to be displayed on the packages, the food safety authority added.

Earlier this month, the Department of Food and Public Distribution said that the government plans to cover 291 districts (aspirational and heavy burden) by March 2023 under the rice fortification programme. The distribution of fortified rice through the public distribution system began in April 2022.