Bill Gates lauds FSSAI on fortification regulation launch, salt iodisaton

Encouraged by the government of India’s initiatives to advance India’s nutrition goals, Bill Gates, co-chair and trustee, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, lauded the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on the launch of the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016, and continued improvement on salt iodisation.

At a meeting on fortification, which took place at FSSAI’s headquarters, he added that the foundation was committed to working with the government and other partners to help scale nutrition interventions that advance India’s nutrition goals. He was the special guest at the meeting. The Tata Trusts also committed their support.

It was attended by secretaries from four ministries (health and family welfare, women and child development, human resource development, food processing industries), four departments [food and public distribution, biotechnology, health research (Indian Council for Medical Research) and animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, and representatives from key development and industry partners,

The standards and logo for fortified foods, which were released last month, have already become a rallying point for large-scale food fortification. Several states are already in the advanced stages of adopting fortified foods in government programmes.

For instance, double-fortified salt is being distributed in the public distribution system of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, and Karnataka is introducing fortified wheat flour in their mid-day meals. Leena Nair, secretary, ministry of women and child development, stated that they were looking forward to making fortified food mandatory.

Several businesses have also come forward to introduce fortified foods in the market. Mother Dairy’s managing director informed that they had already begun to use the logo for their fortified milk.

A food fortification resource centre (FFRC) to provide technical support, advocacy and expertise in all aspects of food fortification -on the supply side for industry players as well as on the demand side for consumers – was also launched at the meeting.

The FFRC portal would function as a knowledgedissemination and interaction platform across stakeholders. In a marked departure from the previous standalone efforts for food fortification, an integrated, pan-India approach was adopted.

Widespread micronutrient malnutrition poses a serious threat to the health and consequently the growth and development of the nation. An alarming 70 per cent of the Indian population consumes less than 50 per cent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of micronutrients.

India has more than a quarter of the world’s vitamin A-deficient pre-school children. About 70 percent of pre-school children and over 50 per cent of women suffer from anaemia caused by iron deficiency.

Food fortification is a simple, proven, cost effective and complementary strategy that has been used across the globe to safely and effectively prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

At present, 86 countries have mandated fortification of at least one industrially milled grain – wheat four, maize or rice.

In India, the fortification of salt with iodine, started in 1962 by the government,significantly reduced the prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders and is a landmark public health success story.

However, large-scale fortification of food has yet to reach its full potential in India, since efforts have been sporadic, scattered and focused on single food commodities.

These substantive developments in the past three months towards a nationwide unified approach for food fortification have given a much needed fillip to the efforts during the past 30 years, ushering in a new era in the fight against micronutrient malnutrition in India.

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