The crucial topics of micronutrient deficiencies and Large Scale Food Fortification (LSFF) will be discussed at a side event at the 76th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva on Tuesday, 23 May 2023, hosted by the governments of Colombia, Ecuador and Malaysia. At the side event, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition and partners will help unpack the pivotal resolution that calls on WHA Member States to scale up food fortification programs globally, particularly in countries where micronutrient deficiencies are prevalent. The public can follow the updates on the Food Fortification resolution here.
Half of all preschool-aged children and 2/3rds of all women of reproductive age worldwide suffer from at least one micronutrient deficiency, also known as “hidden hunger”. These deficiencies cause a range of health problems, from impaired cognitive development in children to increased risk of infections and conditions such as anemia and blindness.
Lawrence Haddad, executive director of the GAIN and a speaker at the event, said, “At GAIN, we have spent the past 20 years supporting food fortification in over 40 low and middle-income countries. Unfortunately, the prevalence of malnutrition is growing globally due to simultaneous climate and food crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine. More investment in food fortification can help to provide an important nutrition safety net as we seek to build nutritious food systems that are more resilient in the face of global shocks.”
Food fortification has been identified as a cost-effective and sustainable strategy to combat hidden hunger and improve public health. According to the WHO, fortification of staple foods can improve micronutrient status in populations and reduce the incidence of associated diseases, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where access to diverse diets and supplements is limited. Eighty-four countries could benefit from establishing new mandatory fortification programs, and most existing programs must be strengthened to reach more people with adequately fortified food.
“Food fortification is among the solutions that we are urgently pursuing to combat rising levels of malnutrition in African Union countries,” said Ambassador Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union and member of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement’s Lead Group. “We welcome this important resolution of the World Health Assembly as food fortification is also on the front burner at the African Union.”
The proposed WHA resolution has united the health policy, disability rights, and nutrition sectors. Over 70 global, regional, and national organizations have endorsed the resolution and are actively working to support its passage. “The World Health Organization is pleased to stand alongside Member States of the WHA and the wide coalition of stakeholders that has come together to support accelerated action on food fortification to combat micronutrient deficiency and its impacts,” said Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety at WHO. “Governments need to design effective food fortification programs aimed to reach all people in need and engage civil society and the private sector for effective implementation.”
The Masters of Ceremony for the side event are Saskia Osendarp, Executive Director of the Micronutrient Forum, and Gail Rosseau, George Washington School of Medicine & Health Sciences and G4 Alliance. In addition to Lawrence Haddad, speakers will include representatives from supportive member states, food fortification experts and representatives from the disability rights, child rights, and health policy communities.
Registration for the event is open here. https://pr.report/F6yaLNnj
Contact Information: Edwin Shankar Media Relations email@example.com
To mark the ongoing 4th Rashtriya Poshan Maah, the Department of Food and Public Distribution under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Ministry of Women and Child Development jointly organised a webinar on ‘Rice Fortification: A complementary approach to address Nutritional Anaemia’ with technical support of the World Food Programme on Friday.
The Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, Sh. Sudhanshu Pandey in his keynote address said “It’s a momentous time in the Public Distribution history that such a major decision has been taken.”
Honourable Prime Minister in his address on the 75th Independence Day (15th August, 2021) made an announcement that fortified rice will be provided through all Government of India schemes.
“We have been given a time frame that by 2024 we have to supply fortified rice to the entire public distribution system,” he added.
“I am particularly happy that Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) and the Department of School Education & Literacy are looking to the vulnerability of children and students,” he said adding on “They took decision to supply fortified rice for their Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) programmes and Mid-Day Meal Programmes from 1st of April this year. As a result of which, we got an opportunity to work through an entire ecosystem of rice fortification and prepare ourselves to something which was much bigger.”
“India has been taking promising steps to ensure food security and improving the nutrition outcomes of its population, it is, therefore, about time that fortification is integrated into the larger response to address malnutrition in the country with the understanding that it will reinforce, complement and support ongoing nutrition improvement programmes such as supplementation & dietary diversification,” said Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, Shri Sudhanshu Pandey.
“There is a need to amplify efforts to spread awareness about fortified rice and its benefits so that demand is created and acceptability for nutrient-enriched rice is better. All stakeholders must come together to create awareness campaigns using local languages,” Shri Pandey added.
Dr. Shariqua Yunus, Head, Nutrition and School Feeding Unit, WFP while talking about ‘Rice Fortification: Concept and process’ said that anemia continues to be a problem in the country. “Over last 10 years, the reduction in prevalence of anemia is slightly less than expected,” said claiming that fortified rice is the most sustainable solution to the health issues.
Ms. Inoshi Sharma, Director, FSSAI talked about ‘Benefits of fortified rice, Myth and Misconception around fortified rice’ and emphasized, “There is absolutely no difference between rice and fortified rice.”
Pertinently, 7 States have already started the distribution of fortified rice. Approx. 2.47 Lakh MT of fortified rice is distributed till August 2021 under the pilot scheme. Production of Fortified Rice Kernels (FRK) is increased from 7250 MT in 2018 to around 60,000 MT yearly. (additional 25,000 – 30,000MT/year is also in the pipeline)
Nearly 3100 Rice mills have installed blending unit in 15 Key States with cumulative monthly blending capacity of around 18.0 Lakh MT for production of fortified rice. Standards have been established for fortified rice through regulatory agency such as Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Similarly, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has been requested to come out with a standard for extruder and blending machines for fortified rice production for uniformity.
Pallavi Agarwal, Joint Secretary, WCD during her address emphasized on the importance of sustainable diet. She said that the Ministry of Women and Child Development has planned a series of activities particularly on nutrition awareness, throughout the month in tandem with the States/UTs under POSHAN Mah. These awareness activities will be particularly carried out in the grassroots level.
A flagship programme of Government of India, POSHAN Abhiyan aims at improving nutritional outcome for children, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers. The programme was launched by Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi on March 8, 2018 on the occasion of International Women’s Day from Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan.
The POSHAN (Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition) Abhiyan directs the attention of the country towards the problem of malnutrition and address it in a mission-mode. Focusing on the aims of POSHAN Abhiyan, Mission Poshan 2.0 (SakshamAnganwadi and Poshan 2.0) has been announced in the Budget 2021-2022 as an integrated nutrition support programme, to strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach and outcomes with focus on developing practices that nurture health, wellness and immunity to disease and malnutrition.