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Food Ministry counters Congress, says fortified rice safe

The Ministry said rice fortification has been adopted by seven countries, including the U.S., since 1958.
| Photo Credit: V. Raju

The Union Food Ministry, on Friday, countered the Opposition Congress’s allegation that the distribution of fortified rice through fair price shops is being done despite multiple warnings by experts and institutions such as NITI Aayog and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

A spokesperson of the Ministry said the Niti Aayog had been actively engaged in running the scheme. “There is no basis in the reports that Niti Aayog took a stand against fortified rice,” he said.

Evaluation under way

The Ministry has been maintaining, citing various studies, that consumption of fortified rice resulted in significant improvement in haemoglobin levels and reduction in the prevalence of anaemia. The Ministry said rice fortification has been adopted by seven countries, including the U.S., since 1958. “Concurrent evaluation is being done by NITI Aayog in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research. Evaluation study of some pilot districts are also under way,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) said in a statement that the Centre, in a unilateral decision, has been supplying iron-fortified rice in public safety net programmes like the PDS, mid-day meals, and anganwadis, reaching crores of Indians. “These are mostly poor citizens who rely on state subsidised food and for whom iron-fortified rice has become mandatory since they cannot afford to buy other (non-fortified) rice in the open market. The scaling up of this programme came before a pilot scheme in 15 States was completed, or evaluated independently and rigorously. The evaluation of these pilots was due in late 2022 as per an RTI response by the government,” the statement said.

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