The Union Budget 2019-2020 saw progress on the issue of food fortification. Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme on Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under Public Distribution System 2019-2020, a total Rs 42.65 crore has been budgeted, Parliament was informed. This will be part of Rs 192,240.39 crore allocated to the department of food and public distribution, an increase from the Rs 174,159.10 crore budgeted in 2018-19.
Fortification is a strategy of adding certain micronutrients, ie vitamins and minerals in a food. Many countries have used this strategy in the past to address nutrition deficiencies. India’s National Nutritional strategy, 2017, has listed food fortification as one of the interventions to address anaemia, vitamin A and iodine deficiencies apart from supplementation and dietary diversification.
Malnutrition is a prominent issue in India — 38 per cent of children under five years are stunted ie too short for their age, 36 per cent are underweight and 21 per cent are wasted ie too thin for their height, which is a sign of acute under-nutrition. Fifty-nine per cent women and 53 per cent children are anaemic.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) made standards for fortification in the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2018, for five staples — wheat, rice, milk, oil and salt.
The Union Ministries of Women and Child Development, Human Resource Development and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution have mandated the distribution of fortified wheat flour, rice, oil and double fortified salt in their schemes — Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) and Public Distribution System (PDS) respectively.