Kochi : Agriculture welfare organizations have asked Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to reconsider the proposal to make mandatory fortification of edible oil with Vitamin A and Vitamin D and rice with Vitamin B12, iron and folic acid.
“While we agree with FSSAI’s diagnosis that India faces a huge nutritional challenge, we strongly disagree with its prescription. We strongly urge FSSAI not to pursue this route and at the same time promote and highlight alternatives as well,” said Usha Soolapani, director of Thanal and co-convenor, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).
ASHA, which is an informal alliance of more than 400 organizations from across India working among other themes on sustainable agriculture and safe, diverse, sufficient and nutritious food, has flagged the move as ‘scientifically unproven’. Industry groups like Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) with which FSSAI’s food fortification resource centre works should not be involved in such assessment at all. GAIN has companies like BASF, Royal DSM amongst others, which carry a serious conflict of interest, in that they benefit from the huge market to be gained from fortification and their involvement is highly objectionable.
There are concerns around overdose, which is a major issue with mandatory fortification in that it does not discriminate for dosage within a given population.
A study last year by Anura Kurpad, head of physiology at St John’s Medical Institute, Bengaluru, had cautioned that food fortification and iron tablet supplementation may expose women to excess iron, ASHA said in a statement.
There’s a need to promote awareness, working with other bodies and non-government organizations who are working on low cost, sustainable solutions, such as kitchen gardens, bran in diet and nutrition-rich diverse varieties of crops, suggests ASHA.