Food is an integral part of our life and is necessary for human survival. Hence, food safety is of utmost priority for any country. Since India is an agricultural dependent economy, the food industry holds a significant importance. In order to monitor the laws relating to food, the Government of India enacted the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. Finally, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), on August 02, 2018 has made the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2018 which have been notified in the Gazette of India.
is Food Fortification?
Fortification means purposely increasing the
content of essential micronutrients in a food as to improve the nutritional
quality of food and to provide public health benefit with minimal risk to
Also, food fortification is a scientifically proven, cost-effective, scalable and sustainable global intervention that addresses the issue of micronutrient deficiencies.
Need for Food Fortification
Micro-nutrient deficiencies affect not only the
poor. Less obvious but nonetheless important are the effects of today’s
lifestyles in the developed world on nutritional status. There are increased
food choices, yes, but low micro-nutrient densities. The hectic pace of life
can lead to inadequacies in the diet, so that even in well-endowed societies
people are increasingly looking to fortified foods to make up the deficiencies.
Food fortification has for one reason or the other emerged as a non– complicated way to improve the nutritional value of a diet.
It has been applied for decades to improve the nutritional status of target populations in various countries by adding value to simple, affordable staple foods. Indeed, in many countries fortification of staples such as wheat flour is mandatory, to replace nutrients lost through food processing or to reduce the prevalence of identified deficiencies.
Further, in India, the micronutrient intake for most micronutrients is less than the recommended dietary allowances across age groups; in most cases, the gap varies between 50%-70%
Also, micronutrient deficiency disorders (MNDs) have many adverse effects on human health, not all of which are clinically evident.
Even moderate levels of deficiency can have serious detrimental effects on human functioning along with profound implications for economic development and productivity, particularly in terms of potentially huge public health costs and the loss of human capital formation.
The control of micronutrient deficiencies is an essential part of the overall effort to fight hunger and malnutrition.
Food based strategies namely dietary diversification and food fortification along with public health measures, nutrition education and supplementation are known evidence based approaches to address the situation.
Features of Food Fortification
Prescribes the standards of the addition of micronutrients for the purpose of food fortification
Manufacturers of the fortified food provide a quality assurance undertaking
Also, packaged and labeled fortified food to state the food fortificant added, logo and the tagline ” Sampoorna Poshann Swasth Jeevan.”
It should be in compliance with Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011.
Role of Food Fortification in addressing micronutrient deficiencies
Prevention or minimization of occurrence of micronutrient deficiency in a population of specific population groups.
Also, contribution to the correction of a demonstrated micronutrient deficiency in a population or specific population groups.
A potential for an improvement in nutritional status and dietary intakes that may be, or may become, suboptimal as a result of changes in dietary habits/lifestyles.
Advantages of Food
Fortification in addition to improvement of nutritional status
Fortification requires neither changes in existing food patterns nor any kind of individual compliance
Also, it is cost effective and quite reasonable
Multi-micronutrient fortified foods are also better at lowering the risk of the multiple deficiencies that can result from several deficits in the food supply or a poor quality diet.
Moreover, it is usually possible to add one or serval micronutrients without adding substantially to the total cost of the food product at the point of manufacture.
Food fortification mandatory or
Fortification is voluntary. However, if any staple claims to be fortified, the standards as notified have to be followed. Besides, the intent is to ensure that the interest of the consumer is protected and the +F logo can only be used if the staple is fortified as per the regulations.
The ‘+F’ logo has been notified to identify fortified foods. Scientific Health Claims for label declaration of fortified foods approved by the Scientific Panel on Nutrition and Fortification were also released. With the regulations being notified in the Gazette of India, FSSAI has firmly placed food fortification on the national agenda. Hence, this thas created an enabling environment and encouraged food businesses to adopt food fortification.
Moreover, in October 2016, FSSAI operationalized the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016 for fortifying staples namely Wheat Flour and Rice (with Iron, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid), Milk and Edible Oil (with Vitamins A and D) and Double Fortified Salt (with Iodine and Iron) to reduce the high burden of micronutrient malnutrition in India.
With increasing awareness of the efficacy of food fortification, many countries have initiated large-scale trials and projects to facilitate widespread fortification of staple foods, including oil. International organizations such as UNICEF, WHO and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation too have recognised food fortification the priority and potential of food fortification in helping meet nutrition goals across the world. Twenty-seven countries, moreover, have already mandated oil fortification, according to the Food Fortification Initiative.