Budget constraints limit access to nutrient-rich foods for many families, who are unaware or unable to afford a nutritious diet, said a World Bank expert
GN Bureau | October 27, 2017
Micronutrient deficiencies, especially Vitamin A and D, are prevalent in India, said a World Bank expert who noted that these deficiencies -- often referred to as ‘hidden hunger’ -- go largely unnoticed and affect large populations.
In a blog “Tackling India’s hidden hunger”, senior agriculture economist Edward W. Bresnyan wrote that night blindness, a condition afflicting millions of pregnant women and children, stems from low intake of foods rich in essential nutrients like Vitamin A.
“Budget constraints limit access to nutrient-rich foods for many families, who are unaware or unable to afford a nutritious diet,” he said and added that national programs help supplement diets with Iron and Vitamin, but their scope is too narrow to adequately address these deficiencies.
Read: For a more nutritious India
The blog said that when fortified with vitamin A and D, milk, which remains a staple for many Indians, can help alleviate dietary deficiencies when supplementation is not available.
“Food fortification is a relatively simple, powerful and cost-effective approach to curb micronutrient deficiencies. It is in general socially accepted and requires minimal change in existing food habits.
“The process is inexpensive and costs about 2 paisa per liter or about one-tenth of a cent. And because it only adds a fraction of daily recommended nutrients, the process is considered safe. For these reasons, food fortification has been successfully scaled up in some emerging economies.”
Bresnyan said that except for salt fortification with iodine, India has not yet achieved large-scale food fortification.
With India’s rapidly growing dairy industry, large-scale milk fortification of Vitamins A and D is a robust vehicle for increasing micronutrients intake across the population.
The South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI) is piloting a large-scale milk fortification project to help Indian families better access micronutrient-rich foods. India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) will coordinate implementation and produce guidelines and training to fortify milk.
The project aims to fortify 2 million metric tons (MTs) of milk, reaching more than 30 million people.
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