|In the plant milk fortification training is being imparted to Kerala Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Limited, Milma at Wayanad Dairy Kerala|
‘Children come to school every day because of Medha milk,’ says Ms AK Minj, a teacher at Krist Raj School in Chandwa block, Latehar district in Jharkhand. Medha Milk is milk fortified with Vitamins A and D, and is being provided in an initiative by the Tata Trusts to address the very grave issue of India’s nutritional deficiency.
India has a very high burden of micronutrient deficiency, especially Vitamins A and D, iodine, folic acid and zinc. This costs the country nearly one per cent of its GDP – nearly Rs27,720 crore per annum due to illness, increased health care costs, and loss of productivity. According to the National Family Health (NFSH4) survey, Women and children are at higher risk, with nearly 53.1 per cent of women and 58.4 per cent of children from the ages of 6 months to 5 years suffering from anaemia. The consequences are dire – pregnancy complications, increased risk of maternal deaths, and higher instances of delayed mental and physical development in children.
Another survey suggests that more than 70 per cent of the people – whether affluent, middle-income or poor/marginalised – suffer from Vitamin D deficiency; 57 per cent of pre-school children have sub-clinical Vitamin A deficiency as well. While diet diversity can do much to alleviate these issues, the high cost of food and reduced nutrients in available food makes it nearly impossible to get required nutrition from a person’s daily diet.
|In the plant milk fortification training is being imparted to Karnataka Milk Federation at Mother Dairy Yelahanka in Bengaluru|
The fortification of salt with iodine to counter cases of widespread goitre is one of the earliest examples of successful micronutrient interventions. Since 1953, it had also been mandatory to fortify Vanaspati with Vitamin A to address night blindness. Unfortunately, over the decades, Vanaspati had fallen out of favour – more and more people were using edible oils instead, and these weren’t fortified.
The Trusts, therefore, put in a lot effort into hosting scientific panel discussions, and collating evidence garnered from pilot projects to make a pitch for a concerted plan of action. Finally, in 2016, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FFSAI) released fortification standards for five staples – milk, salt, oil, rice and wheat flour.
In order to tackle these issues at ground level and to create an enabling environment for the nutritional security of the nation, the Trusts established the Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) in collaboration with FFSAI. “FFRC has become the one source of information about the promotion of fortification efforts in India,” says Mr Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FFSAI.
|Detection of Vitamin A in oil being demonstrated at a workshop conducted for the training and capacity building of the industry professionals|
- Dr Rajan Shankar