India File

A global initiative

Preeti Mehra | Updated on March 10, 2018

BL18_IF_Children_facts

Fortification is a popular tool to healthy life in countries like Finland and Sweden

While a spurt of activity is taking place in food fortification, several questions have been raised on why we need this in the first place? According to nutrition experts who support the move, it is one of the “most cost-effective and sustainable strategies to deliver micro-nutrients to large populations.”

WHO estimates that 2.5 million children die every year due to malnutrition. Apart from this, 6.6 million children are born mentally impaired every year due to iodine deficiency and intellectual capacity reduces by 15 per cent due to the same; 330,000 child deaths are precipitated to Vitamin A deficiency, while 200,000 babies are born every year with neural tube defects due to folic acid deficiency. As many as 22,000 people, largely pregnant women, die every year from severe anaemia.

Food fortification is not a unique concept. It has been used in North America and Europe since the 1920s. In fact, around 140 countries are implementing iodised salt programmes, 83 have mandated cereal and grain fortification while many others are adding micro-nutrients to edible oil, sauces and condiments. A paper by experts such as MG Venkatesh Mannar and R Sankar published in the Indian Journal of Paediatrics on micro-nutrient fortification of foods points out that the current low levels of iron deficiency in the USA are attributable to fortified sources. “Almost one-fourth of the iron intakes in the US diet come from fortified sources, much of that from flour products. In Denmark, Finland and Sweden 10 to 20 per cent of the iron consumed comes from fortified cereals,” says the article.

Dr Rajan Sankar, Programme Director, Nutrition at Tata Trusts and one of the authors of the paper explains that India too has had an iodised salt policy in place for several decades, but it is only in the last few years that it is looking at fortifying other staples as well.

Published on July 17, 2017

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