Fortified food and health

Fortified food and health

Fortified food and health – Today Current Affairs

The government has recently announ­ced a fast schedule of spreading rice fortification in India. According to this schedule, the supply of fortified rice to the Integrated Child Development Services, midday meals, other nutrition and welfare schemes as well as to the vast public distribution system is to be completed by 2024.

This rapid rollover of rice fortification is likely to be harmful in various ways. Rice fortification should not be seen in isolation, but together with programmes and proposals for fortification of several other essential foods like salt, milk, edible oils, and wheat, apart from the fact that fortification is also used in several other widely sold packaged food products.

Health concerns of fortified food : The Hindu Analysis

The first risk is that there can be health problems arising from excess intake of some of the micronutrients in fortified foods like iron and vitamins. The fact that such excess can lead to several health problems is well established as is the fact that this is much more likely to arise from artificial fortification than from natural foods. The process of fortification involving the processing in heavy machines can also lead to some undesirable residual products finding their way to our food.

In the case of fortified rice, if the fortified kernels do not blend optimally with normal rice, the consumer can be confused regarding whether there are some undesirable contaminants to be removed. The next step can be to promote only a few rice varieties, or to give a better price for only such varieties, or even to root for patented or genetically modified varieties in the name of varieties that blend well.

While the need is to encourage smaller, village-level processing of rice and all other food, thus generating local livelihoods, this rice fortification will take us in the opposite direction of further increasing the centralisation of rice production by a few big businesses. The idea of local village-level rice processing will be dashed forever. It will become difficult to establish even a cottage industry based on rice produced in the nearby fields of villages as the rice grown here cannot be used directly without fortification. The Hindu Analysis

Now, rice processing will be in the hands of those big companies, including multinational companies, which control the fortification technology. Other rice millers will survive only after taking loans and adding the new expensive machinery and then too only as junior partners of those who control fortification technology, who can keep dictating to them to make improvements in processing and machinery, thus imposing added costs on them.

Food security : The Hindu Analysis

It has been seen time and again that staple food becomes more expensive once its processing passes into the hands of big business interests. To give an example, even at the time of the influx of cheap corn in Mexico as a result of a free trade agreement with the United States, the price of tortillas remained high because the maize milling and flour industry was concentrated in a few big business units. Thus, farmers (due to higher maize imports) and consumers (due to higher prices) both suffered. In fact, at the time of the farmers’ movement in 2021, the main point precisely was that both the ordinary farmers and consumers will be harmed with the increasing domination of big businesses. But it appears that the government has still not learned this lesson. The Hindu Analysis

In the case of indigenous rice varieties, it is often stated that the flavor improves with time. So, it has been usual to store and eat something later. The shelf life of the fortified rice kernels is stated to be only around 12 months or so. We need to remember that storage periods in the Food Corporation of India warehouses can be quite long and then transportation across vast distances, ultimately to the fair price shops (FPSs), takes its own time too.

Procurement system : The Hindu Analysis

An important need in India is highly decentralized procurement so that a significant part of the food procured in a village ends up in the same village’s FPSs and nutrition programmes, reducing food transportation that is good both for the environment and food security. Mandatory food fortification can shut the door on such ideas.

Today Current Affairs


Now let us see if we can achieve better nutrition enhancement objectives in other ways. Even official reviews say that the need for fortification arises because the present-day milling removes essential nutrients from rice significantly. Hence, the most obvious way is to move away from milling that indulges in excessive removal and polishing to milling, which results in a much lower removal and polishing, thus reducing this as much as possible. Such technology is certainly available, and so the real solution is actually very simple and inexpensive. However, the biggest gains for nutrition will come from following the social agroecology approach in farming and food, which is based on improving soil health and the overall natural conditions of farming on the one hand and reducing inequalities on the other. As soil is nursed back to its health, its balance of micronutrients will return, and the nutrition of plants grown in this soil will improve too. Reducing inequalities at all levels and promoting creative, sustainable, and ecologically protective livelihoods of people remain the best means of chasing away hunger and malnutrition, but well-implemented nutrition programmes in both villages and cities will also help.


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plutus ias daily current affairs 05 May 2022 Hindi

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