Anaemia is a condition of low Haemoglobin which is caused mainly due to iron deficiency and results in weariness or lack of energy and shorting of breath. Seeking to address the problem, scientists of Department of Biotechnology (DBT) have developed an innovative way to fortify rice with iron which can be mixed with normal rice and consumed without compromising on its flavor. The fortified rice, manufactured using broken rice kernel through the DBT’s technology, matches the normal rice kernel in shape, size and sheen. It provides 50 percent of recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron to children when mixed with normal rice in the ratio of 1:100. “Clinical studies have substantiated that the regular feeding for one year increases iron store and decreases anaemia in school going children”, said the DBT of the ministry of science and technology in its note on rice fortification.
It referred to the National Family Health Survey conducted in 2005-2006 which detected the prevalence of anaemia in 70 percent of children six months to 5 years. Since Indian population is predominantly vegetarian, its dependence on plant-based sources limits iron absorption in the body. It leads to iron deficiency in large section of the population. “The food fortification can be of help for children in our country, suffering from anaemia and iron deficiency related diseases”, said the DBT.
Rice-fortification initiative in India was first launched by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) in Odisha where it had successfully completed its pilot programme on iron fortified rice served to children under the Mid-Day Meal programme in Gajapati district early this year. “The DBT’s technology will help the Centre take forward the rice fortification model to other parts of the country to deal with nutritional deficiency among school children. Food fortification is the easiest way to deliver micro-nutrients to large populations”, said an official. Under the DBT technology, rice is fortified through a process called “extrusion” in which dough made of rice flour, vitamin, mineral mix and water is passed through an extruder and cut into grain-like structures that resemble rice grains. Further the department explained that appropriate quantities of iron, iodine, zinc, water soluble vitamins (folic acid, B1, B2, B6, Niacin, B12 ) and fat soluble vitamins (A and D) are added to commonly consumed foods under this technology to bridge the “gap” between the daily requirements and the daily food intake.