India is a country where despite of lots of measures, still malnutrition is prevailing in a large portion of its population. A huge proportional shift in numbers can be seen in recent times where people are having deficiency of vital nutrients such as vitamin A and D along with some minerals and micronutrients. These deficiencies fuel umpteen numbers of diseases and co-morbidities owing to the reason that Vitamin A and D are immuno-boosters.
A national webinar on Edible Oil Fortification: From Commitment to Action was held and hosted by FSSAI and GAIN to discuss the intricacies and difficulties in the regard and to suggest measures to tackle these issues at its earliest. Several representatives from the government, development partners, academia and edible oil industry players had participated in the webinar.
Putting motion on the webinar, in the beginning, Arun Singhal, CEO, FSSAI, announced, “FSSAI is considering to make it mandatory to fortify edible oil with vitamin A and D, so that people of India can enjoy better immunity with good health. This will ensure that people belonging to different socio-economic strata will have easy access to fortified edible oil across the country”. To facilitate the industry, the Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) within FSSAI will also provide the necessary technical support required to enable fortification of edible oil at the industry level, he highlighted.
Development sector organisations like GAIN along with FFRC have been working together with oil industry to build their capacities for producing quality assured edible oil fortified with vitamin A and D. At present, 69% (7.94 MMT/annum edible oil) of packaged edible oil sold across pan-India is fortified. Now is the time to scale up the edible oil fortification, across the country, to improve nutrition and health status of Indian population.
Tarun Vij, country director, GAIN, emphasised, “The government’s mandate for scaling up the process of edible oil fortification should go hand in hand with building capacities of the industry for producing quality assured edible oil fortified with vitamin A and D”. Citing the example of Rajasthan where fortification of edible oil is being done since 2011, Vij highlighted that there is a substantial reduction in the vitamin A deficiency among children (10-19 years) i.e., 1.9% against the national average of 15.6%, CNNS 2018-19. Perhaps, the state-wide production and availability of edible oil fortified with vitamin A and vitamin D has positively contributed towards this change.
In webinar, delegates discussed two pronged strategies, firstly to fortify the oils with these essentials and secondly to provide incentives and other technological supports to the food processing units across the nation making compliance of the strategy simpler. It will also aid the producers to produce quality premixes. State food laboratories are also to be strengthened under the new strategy formulated at the meeting.