Food Fortification

Why Fortification ??

Fortification is adding vitamins and minerals to foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies. The nutrients regularly used in grain fortification prevent diseases, strengthen immune systems, and improve productivity and cognitive development.

Wheat flour, maize flour, and rice are primarily fortified to:

  1. Prevent nutritional anemia
  2. Prevent birth defects of the brain and spine
  3. Increase productivity
  4. Improve economic progress

In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals; fortifying commonly eaten grains is a step toward addressing these.

Fortification is successful because it makes frequently eaten foods more nutritious without relying on consumers to change their habits.

The following 12 vitamins and minerals are used in flour and rice fortification globally. Each country sets standards to include the specific nutrients its population needs.

  • Iron, riboflavin, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin B12 help prevent nutritional anemia which improves productivity, maternal health, and cognitive development.
  • Folic acid (vitamin B9) reduces the risk of severe birth defects of the brain and spine.
  • Zinc helps children develop, strengthens immune systems, and lessens complications from diarrhea.
  • Niacin (vitamin B3) prevents the skin disease known as pellagra.
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2) helps with metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
  • Thiamin (vitamin B1) prevents the nervous system disease called beriberi.
  • Vitamin B12 maintains functions of the brain and nervous system.
  • Vitamin D helps bodies absorb calcium which improves bone health.
  • Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of childhood blindness. It also diminishes an individual’s ability to fight infections. Vitamin A can be added to wheat or maize flour, but it is often added to rice, cooking oils, margarine, or sugar instead.
  • Calcium builds strong bones, helps transmit nerve messages and assists with muscle function and blood clotting. A few countries add calcium to flour, but it is more commonly added to other foods.
  • Selenium helps with reproduction and thyroid gland function.
  • Vitamin B6 is needed for enzyme reactions involved in metabolism.

Fortification as part of a country’s nutrition strategy is supported by global organizations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and Nutrition International. For the latest evidence and guidance on nutrition interventions, see the WHO e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA).

Source: Food Fortification Initiative

Malnutrition in India

Malnutrition is still a serious problem for India

‘India suffers from twin-problem of under-nutrition and obesity’

India is facing a serious burden of under-nutrition, according to a global report which shows that more than half the women of reproductive age in the country suffer from anaemia.

The Global Nutrition Report 2017, which looked at 140 countries including India, found ‘significant burdens’ of three important forms of malnutrition used as an indicator of broader trends.

These include childhood stunting, anaemia in women of reproductive age, and overweight adult women.

Latest figures show that 38 per cent of children under five are affected by stunting — children too short for their age due to lack of nutrients, suffering irreversible damage to brain capacity.

About 21 per cent of children under 5 are defined as ’wasted’ or ‘severely wasted’ — meaning they do not weigh enough for their height.

Over half of women of reproductive age — 51 per cent — suffer from anaemia — a serious condition that can have long-term health impacts for mother and child.

More than 22 per cent of adult women are overweight, a rising concern as women are disproportionately affected by the global obesity epidemic, according to the report.

While the country has shown some progress in addressing under-5 stunting, it has made no progress or presents worse outcomes in the percentage of reproductive-age women with anaemia, and is off course in terms of reaching targets for reducing adult obesity and diabetes, the report said.

“The Global Nutrition Report highlights that the double burden of under-nutrition and obesity needs to be tackled as part of India’s national nutrition strategy,” said Purnima Menon, independent expert group on the Global Nutrition Report.

“For under-nutrition, especially, major efforts are needed to close the inequality gap,” said Menon, Senior Research Fellow in the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s South Asia Office in New Delhi.

The Global Nutrition Report 2017 calls for nutrition to be placed at the heart of efforts to end poverty, fight disease, raise educational standards and tackle climate change.

“We know that a well-nourished child is one third more likely to escape poverty,” said Jessica Fanzo, Professor at Johns Hopkins University.

“They will learn better in school, be healthier and grow into productive contributors to their economies. Good nutrition provides the brainpower, the ‘grey matter infrastructure’ to build the economies of the future,” said Fanzo, also the Global Nutrition Report Co-Chair.

The report also found that 88 per cent of countries studied face a serious burden of two or three forms of malnutrition.

It highlights the damaging impact this burden is having on broader global development efforts.

The report found that overweight and obesity are on the rise in almost every country, with two billion of the world’s seven billion people now overweight or obese and a less than one per cent chance of meeting the global target of halting the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025.

In India, 16 per cent of adult men and 22 per cent of adult women are overweight.


Milk fortification - Fortified Milk - Pristine Premixes

India may have to import milk by 2021

India may have to import milk in four years, if it cannot increase fodder supply for its 299 million cattle, as rising pressure on land reduces pastures nationwide.

India may have to import milk in four years, if it cannot increase fodder supply for its 299 million cattle, as rising pressure on land reduces pastures nationwide.

Spurred by rising incomes, a growing population and changing food preferences, the demand for milk and milk products will grow to at least 210 million tonnes by 2021–22, a rise of 36% over five years, according to government estimates. To meet this demand, production must grow by 5.5% per annum, according to the State of India’s Livelihood (SOIL) report. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, milk production grew at 6.2% and 6.3%, respectively.

To boost milk yield, India would need to generate 1,764 million tonnes of fodder by 2020, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of government data. But existing sources can only manage about 900 million tonnes of fodder–a shortage of 49%.

Demand for private consumption has risen from 5% per annum in the period 1998-2005 to 8.5% per annum between 2005 and 2012, according to an Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, report.

This demand and supply gap has pushed up milk prices by an average of 16% per annum, according to the according to the 2015 SOIL report.

States with top milk yields have more pastures

In the decade to 2015, milk production went up 59% from 92 million tonnes to 146 million tonnes in 2015. But fodder shortages may knock India off its position as the world’s top milk producer (it contributes nearly 17% of global production).

The milk productivity of India’s livestock is less than half (48%) of the global average: 987 kg per lactation compared to the global average of 2,038 kg per lactation.

The availability and quality of fodder has a direct bearing on the quantity and quality of milk productivity, the data show. All the three states that topped milk productivity in terms of gram per day–Rajasthan (704), Haryana (877) and Punjab (1,032)–had earmarked more than 10% of their cultivable land for pastures, according to the 2015 SOIL report. The national average is 337.

Currently, all three types of fodder are in short supply–green (63%), dry (24%) and concentrates (76%). Only 4% of total cultivable land in India is used for fodder production, a proportion that has remained stagnant for the last four decades.

Considering the demand for milk, land under fodder production needs to be doubled, according to this December 2016 report of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture.

Shortages are forcing states to now source fodder from elsewhere. “The quality of fodder is a concern. We are now looking to source fodder from Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh),” said Sudhir Mishra, who runs a dairy farm in Ranchi (Jharkhand).

But major portions of grazing lands have either been degraded or encroached upon, according to the Parliamentary Committee report.

However, the availability of crop residues, the largest single source of fodder, has been impacted by increasing pressure on land and the replacement of traditional cereal crops, especially coarse ones. Crop residue includes coarse and fine straws, leguminous and pulses straws.

Given the importance of food and cash crops, it is very unlikely that the area under fodder cultivation will increase substantially, the parliamentary committee report said.

“If India fails to achieve substantial production growth, the country would need to resort to significant imports from the world market which has the potential to cause prices to spurt since India is a large consumer,” said 2015 SOIL report.


By Gangadhar S Patil, IndiaSpend


Super Foods

Super Foods ( Indian Vs International )


The concept of ‘super foods’ is a new one, created by the marketing hype. Each food has its role in nutrition. Each food can become a superfood. Unfortunately, over the last few years, some foods have gained recognition as ‘super food’. For a balanced diet, we always need varied set of items. These ‘super foods’ are mostly international foods, and have come into India at the cost of the rich variety of Indian foods that have existed for centuries. Lest we forget, people used to come to India in search for spices & food items. Currently, the definition of super foods is limited to omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and dietary fiber rich foods.

Quinoa Vs Amaranth

Both these are cereals. More appropriately, pseudo cereals (both are non grasses that are used in much the way as cereals which are in the form of grass eg: rice paddy, wheat field ). Quinoa has been marketed globally as a rare and exotic food whereas amaranth remain subdued and sidelined. Amaranth, also known as Rajgeera or Ramadana, is popular in Jain and other communities during fasting and other rituals.

Amaranth Quinoa
Protein (per 100g) 15g 13g
Zinc & Magnesium Rich Rich
Iron 2x 1x
B Complex Vitamins 1x 2x



Chia is purely a product of the marketing efforts of USA & West. Compositionally, Chia is similar to Basil. Both are rich source of omega 3 fatty acid and dietary fiber. Both swell and becomes a gel when added to liquid. However, when it comes to price, Chia seeds cost a whopping Rs. 350 (250g) compared to Basil seeds, priced at Rs.145 (250g)

Nutrition composition:

Nutrient Chia Seed1 Basil Seed1
* All references for 100g
Total Fat (g) 30.8 4
Of which Omega 3 fatty acid (%) 57 37
Dietary Fiber (g) 37.7 40.5
Protein (g) 16.5 14



  1. IFCT- Indian Food Composition Table, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), 2017
  2. USDA data base on food composition


Groundnut vs Olive oil

Olive Oil is widely used as a salad oil worldwide. A few years ago, it gained popularity in India as a ‘healthier oil’ primarily due to a wide range of misconceptions and promotions. The amount of olive oil sold in the world today exceeds the production capacities, creating an artificial demand and driving pricing up higher. I’m not going to go into the potential environment harm this is causing!

Also, most of the olive oil sold in the market for general cooking is blended with Pomace Oil (Pomace oil is extracted from the olive pulp whereas Olive oil is extracted from the seed and the fruit. The refined Pomace oil is more processed which can lose the nutritional quality of olive oil)

Groundnut oil is ideal for Indian style of cooking compared to virgin olive oil

Both Olive Oil & Groundnut oil are ‘heart-friendly oils’ and are rich in omega 6 fatty acids. (ground nut oil is more native and have good amount of phytonutrients and antioxidants that protect the body from damage from free radicals)



We are used to cabbage. We use it in a wide variety of Indian recipes. Kale and cabbage both belong to the same family Brassica Oleracea. Cabbage is a rich source of Vitamin C and phytochemical, whereas Kale contains good source of B complex vitamins.

Millets vs  OATS

Today the label superfood is being attached to the forgotten food like millets which used to be a staple food few years ago. Millets are nine varieties of tiny grains also known as Navadanya. In the current scenario of global warming and water scarcity, millets can be one of the crops which will provide the food security to the population. Nine varieties of millets are grown by the small dry land farmers across India. Some of them are on the verge of extinction.

Where as Oats has been marketed well by the west as a healthy breakfast porridge. Compared to oats, millets contain twice the amount of dietary fiber which provides better satiety value.

Goji berry vs amla

Amla, or the Indian gooseberry, was one of the most sacred trees in India. The fruit has been used in traditional Indian medicine, culinary dishes and even in Indian versions of shampoos.

Amla is a rich source of Vitamin C, about 252mg compared to Gojiberry, which has 48mg of Vitamin C (per 100g). Goji berries are available in the market in a processed form which may lead to loss of Vitamin C. Both have their place in the Eastern tradition, but amla has more profound medicinal benefits

Coconut/Mustard Oil Vs Olive Oil

Coconut oil is rich in Saturated fatty acid along with medium chain triglycerides which are readily absorbed in the body and provides instant energy. Coconut oil contains good amount of antioxidants and phytochemicals which provides protection against free radical damage. Olive oil on the other hand id rich in unsaturated fatty acids namely mono and polyunsaturated form. There are studies that have seen beneficial effects of coconut oil for cardiac function. Olive oil has its own benefits but in a Mediterranean environment which cannot be always true to Indian conditions

Buckwheat V/S Oats

Both these are cereals. More appropriately, pseudo cereals (both are non grasses that are used in much the way as cereals which are in the form of grass eg: rice paddy, wheat field ). Both are consumed as a cereal because of the carbohydrate content which is comparable with other cereals. Both are gluten free and can be given to person with gluten allergy. In India, buckwheat in the form of flour is used as a fasting food during Navratri and Janmashtmi in Northern part of India. It is known as Kuttu in hindi


Nutrition composition:

Nutrient Buckwheat Oats
* All references for 100g
Carbohydrates (g) 71.5 66.3
Dietary fiber (g) 10 11.6
Protein (g) 13.25 16.9
Fat (g) 3.4 6.9


  1. Why is there a need to focus on what we have (Indian superfoods) especially in today’s times

A: There was a belief once that the healthiest food you could eat had to be sourced from around you. We’ve outgrown that as farming technologies improved. What we eat directly affects the environment. For instance, Indian diet, though believed to be majority rice, also included a fair amount of millets, wheat and other grains. However, in the past few decades, we’ve moved more towards rice – for domestic and export purposes. Rice needs a lot more water to grow than millets do. We’re converting forest lands into rice farms, and we’re starving for water to grow these plants. We’re struggling nutritionally because just rice cannot give a human body all it needs.

As technology evolves and the world becomes a smaller place, we discover newer things around the world. We discovered new tastes that we had previously only imagined. This is great for further growth. However, we cannot put certain other crops at risk, since this can and will lead to an ecological imbalance.

Secondly, the increased focus on international super foods means that Indian super foods take a back seat. International superfoods are extremely expensive, and not affordable to everyone. Sometimes, certain foods might also lose its nutritional value when it is packaged and marketed in regions thousands of kilometers away. This defeats the purpose of buying and eating those foods.

While we should always encourage diversity in thought and food, we truly need to understand the human body, our dietary requirements and naturally, what is the most cost-effective way of getting that nourishment.


  1. What are the pitfalls of going in for international superfoods – focus on the health aspect only.

A: As long as you are not eating something harmful, or in massive quantities, there isn’t anything wrong. However, today ‘superfoods’ are more about hype than reality. As mentioned earlier, today super foods are confined to omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and dietary finer rich foods. These super foods are touted as ‘the perfect health options’. We’ve stories all around us saying ‘ 10 healthy breakfasts you must have’ featuring these foods. People try to make their own diet plans, and believe that the ‘super foods’ are sufficient to address all their needs. They believe that ‘super foods’ are truly great and end up focusing on it at the risk of an extremely imbalanced diet. For instance, excess amount of omega 3 fatty acid rich food can lead to high amount of free radicals causing detrimental effects.

Any minimally processed, well cultivated food grain can be turned as a super food. Super food cannot give a leverage to consume without control. Any food not eaten in moderation can be harmful to the body. Each food has its importance in its own place, context, cultural preferences and regional ecosystem.

More than international super foods, let’s not worry about what is a super food at all – be it Indian or international. Let’s go back to our roots and explore the good things in our foods that we are forgetting. Let our stomach not be led by fads and marketing campaigns.

Diversity of diet is a basic bedrock of good nutrition & health


Shruti Kumbla

Senior Nutritionist