In a recent spat of comments between two of India’s reputable names, FSSAI and Amul have different opinions regarding the Milk Fortification. In this article, we cover not only the dispute between the two organisations, comments by Pawan Aggarwal, the CEO of FSSAI and managing director R S Sodhi but also, explain Food fortification and Milk fortification in detail.
Amul v/s FSSAI debate & everything about “Fortified milk” In a recent spat of comments between two of India’s reputable names, the debate on food fortification has re-introduced itself. Pawan Aggarwal, CEO of FSSAI said “We will be issuing a notice to Amul for disparaging the fortified milk category as this can send wrong signal to the public as if there is some-thing wrong with fortified milk”. This happened when Amul favoured natural fortification over syn-thetic one. The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which sells milk and milk products under the Amul brand, said it is not against the fortification of milk but would prefer it to be natural. Excluding Amul, 18 dairy cooperatives and 12 private dairies are already following the milk fortifica-tion norms. Besides that, State dairy federations from nine other States, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Uttarakhand, and Odisha have officially launched Milk Fortifica-tion.
However, few of Amul’s own products are fortified. Amul LITE is fortified with vitamins A & D, es-sential for good vision & healthy skin. Amul babyspray is fortified with many vitamins and minerals. Amul fatspread is also fortified with vitamin A & D. Recently, at the FICCI FoodWorld India, GCMMF managing director R S Sodhi told reporters“ We are not against fortification. FSSAI is doing a wonderful job. We are helping the food industry to grow. There can be a difference in opinion. We want natural fortification and want this where it is re-quired.” Though this fortification is not mandatory and Amul has chosen to sideline themselves from it.
India’s failing health reports in terms of malnutrition and undernutrition has compelled India to take steps to address the vitamin deficiency amongst the population. Food fortification has became one of the key solutions which the government is adopting. Food fortification is the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A & D to staple foods to improve their nutritional content. The nutrients in fortified food may or may be originally present in the food before pro-cessing. India’s failing health report : India has never performed well on the global stage when it comes to nutrition. In the global hunger index 2018, amongst 119 countries India ranked number 103, which reveals the scary situation of un-dernutrition and malnutrition in the country. India here ranks worse than Nepal, Sri lanka and Bangla-desh. As per WHO and UNICEF 2009 reports, the nation bears the burden of more than a quarter of the world’s vitamin A deficient preschool children and more than 13 million susceptible infants to iodine deficiency. In India, 185 million people don’t get enough nutrients. This hidden hunger is especially pervasive among children. as over 70 percent of India’s children under five are deficient in Vitamin D, and 57 percent of all children in the country lack adequate levels of Vitamin A. According to National Family Health Survey-4 data, among children under five years in India, 38.4 per cent are stunted, 21 per cent are wasted and 35.7 per cent are underweight. To address this scary situation of health in India, FSSAI put forth the regulations for fortification for five categories of staple food in October 2016. This list included wheat, flour, rice (with iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid), edible oil (with Vitamins A and D) and double fortified salt (with iodine and iron) and milk. But why to target Milk ?? According to 2017-18 data, India is the world’s largest milk producing country, with per capita milk availability at 375 grams per day. And Hence, milk fortification is seen as an affordable and cost ef-fective way to address vitamin deficiency. Milk, with its high volume of production, widespread distribution network, affordability and all-around acceptability in the daily food habit has emerged as the best vehicle for fortification. The in-cremental cost of fortification is noted to be ~ 2 paise per litre of milk. This makes milk a cost effec-tive, sustainable and supplementary substitute. The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has been trying to introduce milk fortification for a long time to address malnutrition in India.
To address the issue, NDDB partnered in 2017 with the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the World Bank, and The India Nu-trition Initiative, Tata Trusts to explore the possibilities of large-scale milk fortification in India. Well known as “The Milk Fortification Project”, it aimed to process about 2 million metric tonnes of forti-fied liquid milk reaching to around 30 million consumers. In an effect to implement the “Milk Fortification Project” FSSAI released the Standards for the same. The fortification of Standardised, Toned Milk, Double Toned, and skimmed Milk are issued and fol-lowing the standards, milk needs to be fortified with Vitamin A and D. Going back to the history of Fortification : The earliest mention of food fortification is found in the 4000 BC. A Persian Physician named Malampus is said to have added iron filings to sweet wine to strengthen sailor’s resistance to spears and arrows and also to enhance the sexual potency. In 1833, the French chemist, Boussingault, recommended the addition of iodide to salt to prevent goi-ter in South America. Vitamin A was added to margarine in the 1920s in Denmark. Vitamin D was added to milk in the United States in 1930s to help prevent rickets in children. In the past, India has launched campaigns with fortification of salt, rice and other staples. Talking about milk fortification, Global evidence states that mandatory milk fortification legislation was first introduced in 1935. Currently, There are fourteen countries that have mandated milk fortifi-cation. Eleven of the fourteen countries fortify milk with both Vitamin A and D. Costa Rica is addi-tionally fortifying with iron and folic acid. China and Canada are adding calcium, besides Vitamin A and D. And it's not even something new to India, During 1984, the Department of Food introduced a scheme of fortification of milk with Vitamin A to prevent nutritional blindness. During 1988-89, the total quantity of milk fortified with vitamin A through these dairies was around 3.2 million litres per day. But this is not yet known, how the targeted groups would get to drink this fortified milk and how the non-targeted group can get away with this.
FSSAI says by applying strict monitoring and supervision measures, companies can ensure that fortification levels do not exceed the safe limits. But who takes that responsibility in a country full of scams? It is said that Milk fortification benefits the low income population groups, who prefer the low fat milk due to the lower cost But what about the rest of the population?
Fortification of Milk - Right or Wrong ?