1. Agriculture World

Scientists & NGOs Oppose FSSAI’s Plan for Mandatory Food Fortification

Shipra Singh
Shipra Singh
Wheat grains and flour

Several NGOs and scientists have urged the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to withdraw its decision to make chemical or synthetic fortification of foods compulsory. A letter issued to this body states, “a major problem with the chemical fortification of foods is that nutrients don’t work in isolation but need each other for optimal absorption.” 

According to the groups who are opposing the plan of FSSAI, adding one or two synthetic chemical vitamins and minerals is not going to solve the bigger problem and can cause toxicity and gut inflammation in the under-nourished group of population.  

Scientists and farmers’ groups are of the view that making chemical fortification of food compulsory would lead to irreparable health problems. It could also move opportunities to the big players, pushing aside the small and informal players. Apart from this, this mandatory fortification would encourage monocultures in diets and would increase dependence on packaged foods.  

FSSAI’s draft regulations 

As per Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA-Kisan Swaraj), “The FSSAI issued draft regulations on mandatory fortification of edible oil and milk with Vitamin A and D. It has also announced intentions to make rice fortification mandatory with Vitamin B12, iron, folic acid starting 2024.”  

Recently, the government had commenced a 3-year pilot project on fortification of rice and distribution in 15 districts throughout the country. It was welcomed by rice millers at that. For example, Sona Machinery had welcomed government’s decision 

Yet, it has not gone down well with certain farmer groups and experts in the field of agriculture.  

FSSAI informed that it sees food fortification as a complementary strategy for diet diversification. As per ASHA, “Activists point out that FSSAI’s intentions are questionable since it cited industry-funded studies to justify fortification on a national scale, willfully ignoring conflict of interest since those very entities stand most to profit from such a policy.” 

The big question 

ASHA and other NGOs are asking the question, “If FSSAI really saw fortification as a complementary strategy, then why is fortification mandatory while dietary diversity and other holistic approaches to malnutrition are optional?” 

They argued that the main problem is calorie and protein insufficiency that results due to monotonous cereal-based diets accompanied with low intake of vegetables and animal protein.  

Statement of former Deputy Director of National Institute of Nutrition, Veena Shatrugna 

“Evidence supporting fortification is inconclusive and certainly not adequate before major national policies are rolled out. It is ridiculous that the government is promoting polished rice, which has lost a lot of its nutrition on one hand, and talks about chemical fortification on the other hand.” 

Conclusion: 

The letter that is urging FSSAI to withdraw its fortification plan says that this would create an impact on small rice millers, small farmers, oil mills, and local enterprises who cannot make heavy investments required for food fortification.  

The letter urges the government to not create a blanket rule to solve malnutrition problem in the country. According to scientists and NGOs, one simple way is to improve the diets of people and diversify them through nutrient-dense foods that are widely available like millets, vegetables, dairy products, and animal protein.  

Like this article?

Hey! I am Shipra Singh. Did you liked this article and have suggestions to improve this article? Mail me your suggestions and feedback.

Share your comments

Subscribe to our Newsletter. You choose the topics of your interest and we'll send you handpicked news and latest updates based on your choice.

Subscribe Newsletters