Government plans to supply fortified foodgrains under the PDS and other social welfare programmes like mid-day meals to ensure nutritional security and address malnutrition, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said today.
He also said that food fortification -- a process of adding essential micro-nutrients -- should be made mandatory in rice, wheat flour, edible oil, milk and salt.
"We do not have shortage of foodgrains. The country has surplus wheat, rice and sugar despite that our position is not good on nutritional front," Paswan said at a summit on food fortification organised by food regulator FSSAI.
"We are providing cheaper foodgrains to 100 crore people under food security law and other social welfare schemes. This has helped in ending hunger but it lacks nutritional elements. There is a need that we give nutritional food to people," Paswan said, adding that the fortification is most cost effective way to add micro nutrients in food.
He said the government is serious on providing nutritional food to poor and would hold an inter-ministerial consultation in November first week to prepare a roadmap.
"Initially, we are planning to provide fortified food in social welfare schemes such as mid-day meals and ICDS. In public distribution system, it will take some time," Paswan told PTI on the sidelines of an event.
In PDS, he said, the government supply wheat, which cannot be fortified. However, the minister said that wheat flour can be fortified.
Expressing concern over the malnutrition in the country, Paswan said 42 per cent of the children are underweight and there is common deficiency of Vitamin A&D in people. He said there is a need to take strong action to deal with malnutrition.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has developed comprehensive standards for fortification in wheat flour, rice, edible oil, salt and milk. It has decided to make these standards operational at draft stage only.
As per this standards, fortification of salt can be done with iodine and iron; vegetable oil and milk with Vitamin A & D; wheat flour and rice with iron, folic acid, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin A and some other micronutrients.
"Fortification should be made mandatory in these five food items," Paswan said.
The minister said the government is bringing a new Consumer Protection Act, with strict provisions for misleading advertisements and adulteration.
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