“There is a need to balance technology and the digital age's distractions and emphasize the importance of nutrition in maintaining a healthy lifestyle”, stated Dr. Bharti Pravin Pawar, Hon’ble Minister of State, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India at the National Conference & Excellence Awards, Food Fortification and Nutraceuticals- The Way Forward for Achieving Nutrition Security. The national conference was organized by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) in New Delhi.
She further stated, "In today's fast-paced world, it is evident that technology is evolving rapidly, and its impact on our lives is profound. From smartphones to laptops, digital devices are ubiquitous, especially among the younger generation. It is essential to manage and strike a balance in our usage of these technologies. Digital detoxification has become a necessity to maintain focus and mental well-being."
Dr. Pawar emphasized that recent lifestyle changes, characterized by increased screen time and reduced physical activity, have contributed to the rise of non-communicable diseases. Nutrition, she emphasized, plays a pivotal role in maintaining good health, and "Eating right is not just a slogan but a way of life that we must embrace."
Dr. Pawar also commended the government's Eat Right India initiative, which has been promoting healthy eating habits and ensuring access to nutritious food for all. She cited the positive impact of fortifying staple foods like salt and cereals, addressing micronutrient deficiencies on a large scale.
In a significant announcement, Dr. Pawar stated, "I am pleased to announce that voluntary standards for fortifying staples such as milk, oil, wheat, flour, rice, and salt were notified in 2018. Additionally, standards for the fortification of processed foods were notified in December 2020. These standards have paved the way for a healthier and more nutritious food supply in our country."
Understanding the potency of food fortification in the battle against malnutrition and related health challenges, she stressed that “enhancing the nutrient content of commonly consumed foods can make a substantial impact on public health.” Dr. Pawar stressed that “it is our collective responsibility to ensure that this knowledge is translated into practical solutions that reach those in need.”
India's commitment to the International Year of Millets was also highlighted by Dr. Pawar, who underlined the nutritional benefits of millets and their potential to improve the health and well-being of the nation's citizens.
Lastly, Dr. Pawar urged unity, harmony, and collaboration in the mission to build a healthier and more prosperous India, emphasizing the importance of leveraging knowledge gained during the conference to effect meaningful change.
In his welcome address, Vivek Chandra, chairman of the Food Processing and Value Addition Council at ASSOCHAM and chief executive officer of Global Branded Business at LT Foods, stated, "As we stand here at the intersection of science, innovation, government policy, and private sector initiatives to together tackle the complex challenges of addressing malnutrition, we recognize the critical role that food fortification and nutraceuticals play in shaping the health and well-being of our society. India achieved food security with the Green Revolution and has now, in fact, become the leading exporter of agricultural products to the world in several categories. We account for almost 40% of the global trade. However, India still has a long way to go to provide nutrition security, and that is why the focus now moves from not just food security, but from food security to nutrition security."
Arun Om Lal, co-chairman of the Food Processing and Value Addition Council and Chairman of the Food Fortification & Nutraceuticals Taskforce at ASSOCHAM, stated, "My primary focus is addressing malnutrition, whether undernutrition or overnutrition, through food fortification. Nutraceuticals play a crucial role, covering health supplements, botanical products, and more under FSSAI regulations clarified in March 2022."
He added, "To unite the industry, we established a task force, aiming to raise awareness about the nutraceutical industry, promote food fortification against malnutrition, and provide a common platform for stakeholders, including FSSAI, NITI Ayog, and relevant ministries. SHM facilitates knowledge sharing, discussions on government incentives, supports the plant-based nutrition sector, fosters public-private partnerships, and addresses counterfeit products."
Lal emphasised, "Despite our youth, we're committed to tackling counterfeit products through SHM and shaping industry knowledge and policies."
Dr. Nikhil Kelkar, joint managing director of Hexagon Nutrition, expressed his gratitude for the presence of eminent individuals at the event. He briefly touched upon the importance of concentration in the context of Swami Vivekananda's definition of intelligence, stating, "Swamiji has defined intelligence as concentration." He also mentioned the relevance of this concept in today's world, especially concerning mobile distractions.
Dr. Kelkar highlighted the connection between nutrition and attention deficit disorders like ADHD, saying, "ADHD also has a big part of what we eat, so that attention deficit should not exist." He emphasized the importance of a balanced diet to combat such issues.
At the same conference, the Knowledge Report was also released. Dr. Prabodh S. Halde, head - Regulatory Affairs, Marico; Dr. A. Vamsi Krishna, Scientist 'F’, Programme Officer for Public Health and Nutrition Division, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Govt. of India; and Shantanu Bhadkamkar, chairman, Assocham Maharashtra State Development Council & managing director, ATC Group were also present at the conference.