How rice is fortified, why its is important?

Rice is a significant dish in our daily lifestyle. The fact that rice is pervasive and is eaten throughout the world in varied forms explains its value and requirement. As a result, the production of rice is produced at an increasingly higher rate. This also implies the significance of adding nutrients to the harvested rice.

The process of adding nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid to increase its nutritional value and enrich it, is known as fortified. In simple terms, fortified means protected, much like the added vitamins and nutrients that strengthen you and protect you from getting sick. 

The Cabinet Committee last month approved the phased supply of fortified rice through the Public Distribution Target System (TPDS) in all states and union territories by 2024. Union Minister Anurag Thakur said that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and government agencies had purchased 88.65 LMT of enriched rice for supply and distribution even before the proposal for the supply of enriched rice under the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) was approved. Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

In an Independence Day speech last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the fortification of rice, which is distributed through various government schemes, including the State Distribution System (PDS) and lunch in schools, by 2024.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) defines fortification as “intentionally increasing the content of essential micronutrients in food to improve the nutritional quality of food and ensure the health benefits of the population with minimal risk to health.”

As part of a vigorous implementation effort, the Department of Food and Public Distribution coordinates all ecosystem-related activities with all relevant stakeholders, such as state government / UT, line ministries / department, development partners, industry, research institutes, etc.

The first stage will focus on the supply of rice for Anganwadi and lunch at the school. These schemes are part of the PM Honor and ICDS Center programs.

The second phase will cover 112 desired areas and 250 high-load areas by March 2023.

From March 2024, all rice under all PDS schemes will be enriched. Fortification of rice will be carried out at the rice plants themselves, said Union Minister Anurag Thakur, emphasizing the cost-effectiveness of the procedure.

The whole operation will cost the Union Treasury 4,270 rupees.

Method of fortifying rice-

Rice is fortified through different methods to replenish the lost nutrients in the milling process. The three different methods through which rice is fortified are dusting, coating, and hot or warm extrusion.

  • Dusting-  Micronutrients are dusted in powdered form onto the rice kernels which then bind the powder and the kernels with the help of electrostatic force so that the powder sticks to the surface of the grains. The rice kernels once dusted are not meant to be soaked or cooked in excess water.
  • Coating- In this method, the fortificant ingredients with the help of glue or wax are sprayed on the rice kernels which are then mixed with regular rice in the ratio of 0.5 – 2%.
  • Hot or warm extrusion- The process of hot and warm extrusion begins with the grinding of broken rice grains into rice flour which is mixed with water to create a dough-like consistency. This dough is then passed through the extruder and turned into fortified rice kernels and then mixed with regular rice. The ratio is the same as that of coating. This process has found to be perfectly suitable for increasing the deficiency of micronutrients in rice.

What is the fortification of rice?

Enriching rice by adding micronutrients is a quick and cost-effective way to combat malnutrition. Rice enrichment, the addition of micronutrients such as iron, folic acid and vitamin B12, is an effective, preventive and cost-effective complementary strategy to address the problem of nutrition in the short term.

If left untreated, malnutrition causes growth retardation and anaemia in children and affects women. The WHO has declared anaemia among women and children a “serious” public health problem that requires immediate attention.

How is rice enriched?

Fortification is the practice of consciously increasing the content of the necessary trace element, ie. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) to food to improve its nutritional quality and ensure the health benefits of the population with minimal health risks.

Importance of fortified rice-

Fortified rice is known to enrich nutrients in rice. Rice, as discussed above, is pervasive and is eaten globally contributing to 20% of world calorie intake. It is also a staple food for countries with low income and high hunger rates. Fortified rice is not just good for health but also for the environment. Fortified rice is sustainably produced and provides for sufficient nutritional intake, especially for countries with nutritional deficiencies. 

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