Food regulator favours doubly fortified wheat flour, salt but not for all

Fortified foods are recommended to individuals whose deficiency is not managed by dietary supplementation due to the insufficient absorption of minerals. Hence Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) have plans to introduce doubly fortified wheat flour and salt that is not to be consumed by all. These are meant only for those who suffer from deficiencies of iron and calcium.

The food industry is not in favour of FSSAI’s latest move because companies will have to appoint specialised personnel and procure additional raw materials and standardised chemicals for the fortification process. As per an internal audit conducted by FSSAI officials, the response received from the food industry is not encouraging.

Nutritionists stated that, “Fortification is recommended because medical supplementation has low compliance levels. 50 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic and highly deficient in vitamin D, and so the government is keen on fortification. Fortified foods are only meant for those who have been diagnosed with deficiencies, and whose deficiencies have not been controlled despite supplementation by natural foods.” Fortified foods are not meant for people who have a balanced diet consisting of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, green leafy vegetables, lean meat, fish and dairy products.

Fortification is carried out by adding chemicals to food products. Some nutritionists believe that fortification does not provide any real benefit. A senior nutritionist comments that “Chemicals are used for fortification. It has yet to be studied whether the iron and other minerals are absorbed by the body. These foods have side-effects such as weight gain and an increase in the content of minerals which are already adequate in the diet. It is important to restrict the distribution of fortified foods to only those who have deficiencies.”

Currently there is a lot of confusion among government officials, as to whether double fortification will be implemented or not. A senior official from Telangana said, “Government orders have been issued but it is not clear how they are to be implemented and which categories of food actually require fortification. There is a lot of confusion regarding the people who need fortified foods. Identification will require coordination between healthcare workers and the food industry.”

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