Rice Fortification

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently announced the fortification of rice, which will be distributed under several government schemes by the year 2024. Also included under the Rice Fortification scheme are the Public Distribution System (PDS) and Mid-day meal scheme.

Also, read about the uses, features and areas of cultivation for aerobic rice at the linked article.

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Reason Behind Rice Fortification

Malnutrition has been identified as a leading health discrepancy plaguing the health of women and children in the country. Because of the current scenario, the decision to fortify rice has been taken, which shall be effective under several government schemes.

Rice fortification in India is considered a significant decision since the government currently distributes over 300 lakh tonnes of rice under various schemes under the provisions of the National Food Security Act, 2013. Presently, the centre has allocated over 328 lakh tonnes of rice. Accordingly, they will be apportioned towards Mid-day meal schemes, Integrated child development services, and a targeted public distribution system collectively during the years 2021-22.

Today, India produces almost 20% of the world’s rice, and at the same time, it is also the demand for rice is the largest in the country. The estimated per capita consumption of rice is nearly 7 kilograms every month.

Meaning Of Rice Fortification

The rice fortification process involves the addition of vital vitamins and minerals to the rice, which ultimately increases its nutritional value. The fortification process adds essential elements such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B1, Iron, Zinc, and Folic Acid.

At present, several methods are available to achieve the proper fortification of rice. The adoption of a particular method for the fortification of rice depends on the availability of local technology, preferences, and cost considerations. Here are the prime methods for fortification which are in use these days.

  1. A micronutrient powder can be used, which can be added to the rice such that it adheres to the grains. Similarly, the surface of the rice can be sprayed several times with a mix of vitamins and minerals, which forms a protective coating on the grains of rice.
  2. After extruding rice, they can be shaped into a grain-like structure that appears partially pre-cooked and resembles rice grains. Later, they can be mixed with naturally polished rice.
  3. The kernels of rice can be fortified with essential micronutrients stated above. The fortification process requires a cost-effective but large and sustainable supply of fortified kernels.

As per the norms of FSSAI, a kilogram of fortified rice shall contain specified constituents in prescribed concentration, such as following:

  • Iron (28mg-42.5mg)
  • Folic acid (75-125 microgram)
  • Vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram)
  • Zinc(10mg-15mg)
  • Vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE)
  • Vitamin B1 (1mg-1.5mg)
  • Vitamin B2 (1.25mg-1.75mg)
  • Vitamin B3 (12.5mg-20mg)
  • Vitamin B6 (1.5mg-2.5mg)

As per the recommendations laid down by WHO, fortification of rice with iron is a good public health strategy for areas where rice is a primary source of food. Similarly, fortification of rice with Vitamin A and folic acid may be used as a public health measure to enhance the population’s nutrition viability.

Also, refer to the following links for exam preparation:

What type of crop is rice? In which areas rice is grown in India?
Why is rice grown on terraces? What is rice-wheat cropping?
What is the position of India in the production of rice and wheat? What is the rank of India in the production of rice?

What Has India Done In This Direction?

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs had launched a centrally sponsored scheme for the fortification of rice and its distribution under the Public Distribution System. The pilot scheme was launched for three years starting from 2019-20 and carried a budget outlay of INR 175 Crore. The scheme lays focus on 15 districts and 15 states under which the blending of rice will be completed at the milling stage. At present, the scheme is wholly funded by the government.

Another initiative by the name of ‘Mission Poshan 2.0’ was launched in the Union budget of 2021-22 by the Union Finance Minister. Any supplementary nutrition programs and the erstwhile Poshan Abhiyaan were merged to form the current Mission Poshan 2.0. Together, they aim to strengthen the delivery and outreach of the nutritional programs.

Final Thoughts

The FSSAI sets food standards in India, and it defines fortification as a process of deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients in food. This helps to enhance the nutritional quality of the food and supplement public health benefits while minimising risk to their health. Fortification is a scientifically proven and safe strategy at a cost-effective scale to improve diets and prevent deficiency of essential micronutrients in the diet. FSSAI has currently notified the fortification standards for five different staple food products, including milk, rice, edible oil, salt, and flour.

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