The Department of Food and Public Distribution is working tirelessly to ensure the implementation of 'Rice Fortification' to address malnutrition, anaemia, and micronutrient deficiencies.
The storage and research division of the department is also overseeing the quality standards of finished products from procurement to its distribution through various social security programs as well as self-declared quality certification from the end of FRK (Fortified Rice Kernels) manufacturers/millers etc. For smooth implementation of the entire program/to maintain the desired quality standards under the domestic supply chain, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has also been formulated and issued by the Department in March 2022.
In order to maintain the desired quality standards of Fortified Rice Kernels and Fortified Rice, the SOP narrates the level-wise role & responsibilities of various stakeholders engaged under the ambitious scheme from FRK manufacturing to its distribution to the eligible beneficiaries.
And while the role and responsibilities of various stakeholders are defined by the Department,FSSAI is also playing a vital role in the entire program.
Initially, FSSAI notified the standards for fortified food including rice also via the Food Safety Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulation, 2018, Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011, and others.
FSSAI, empanelled the FRK (Fortified Rice Kernels) manufacturers/licensed them, developed various quality certification standards/guidelines for packaging and stenciling of the finished product, guidelines on sampling, and technical handout on fortification of rice for various operational accomplishments. FSSAI is also mapping the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited labs under the states which may test the various quality parameters of FRK/FR.
Promotional and regularity roles are also undertaken by the FSSAI's Food Safety Officer (FSO). These officers are picking random samples from the mill and from fair price shops to ensure the quality of fortified rice (such that it covers all the shops and mills under his/her supervision in a quarter). Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) a unit of FSSAI, which is functioning as a resource hub for fortification will provide any kind of assistance to the Food Business Operators (FBO), Millers, States, FCI, facilitate training & capacity building (FBO's, rice millers, FPS owners, FSO's ) and monitor & evaluate the program with support from development partners.
FSSAI is a resource hub that provides information and inputs on standards and food safety, technology and processes, premix and equipment procurement and manufacture, quality assurance, and quality control for fortified rice.
Rice fortification, a process of adding micronutrients like Iron, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12, is an effective, preventive and cost-efficient complementary strategy to address the challenge of anaemia. There are various studies from the global as well as Indian context, including pilot projects, which have proven the efficacy of fortified rice as an effective intervention to address anaemia.
In an ambitious attempt to combat the serious problem of anaemia due to malnutrition, Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji announced on 75th Independence Day (15th August 2021) to mandate rice fortification in all social safety net schemes by 2024. It needs to be highlighted that dietary diversification & higher reliance on fruits & vegetables are other sources of micro-nutrients but are not always possible to afford by a large section of the population. The Centre has been making efforts for creating various awareness programs in different areas of the country about the benefits of consuming fortified rice. State Governments have been suitably advised to sensitize the people of their State about the myths and misconceptions about fortified rice. Multiple states across the country have been effectively implementing fortified rice distribution through the public distribution system since the launch of the Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme for distribution of fortified rice through PDS, without any major challenges. Moreover, due to a lack of awareness, however, fortified rice and its benefits are not understood properly.
With regard to FSSAI regulation on packaging material, procuring agencies like Food Corporation of India (FCI)/State Agencies, as the case may strictly follow the guidelines of FSSAI and bags are imprinted with the +F logo and message "People with Thalassemia may take fortified rice under medical supervision."
Fortification is the process of increasing the content of essential micronutrients i.e. Vitamins and Minerals (including trace elements) to food so as to improve its nutritional quality and provide a public health benefit with minimal health risk. Food fortification is regarded as one of the top three priorities for developing countries as per the Copenhagen Consensus Statement, 2008. Fortified foods are not new to India. In India, the consumption of Iodized Salt, also a type of fortified food, has led to the reduction in the prevalence of Iodine Deficiency Disorders and diseases such as Goitre. Rice fortification is also a viable preventive and complementary intervention to solve the problem of anaemia in a short period of span.