Summary:

  • Lack of micronutrients in the diet is known as ‘hidden hunger’ that affects 80 percent of adolescents in India.
  • Fortified foods are crucial in addressing micronutrient deficiencies that contribute to 13 percent of disease burden in India.
  • FSSAI-approved fortified food brands have a blue F+ sign on the packet.
  • Experts batted for district-level food sufficiency of 6 food groups in line with Atmanirbhar Bharat and developing Anganwadi centers for better convergence.
  • Socio-economic and logistic reasons make the availability of fortified food through PDS important.

New Delhi, Sep 6, 2020:Allaying apprehensions of potential rise in malnutrition due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, experts at the ongoing Bharat Nutrition Week, organised by the Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council said that the government’s take-home ration (THR) system ensured supply of necessary food and micronutrients to the people.

Dr.Rajan Sankar, Director of Nutrition, Tata Trusts noted “Consequences of malnutrition go beyond health as it affects the intellectual potential of children. Micronutrient deficiency contributes to 13 percent of the disease burden in India, so it is important to address the issue. The take-home ration (THR) system during the COVID-19 pandemic took note that there will be sharing of food within the household and was designed accordingly. Tata Trusts has a network of Swasth Bharat volunteers in 320 districts – they as well as independent studies have found the intended recipients of THR are getting food.”

Noting that micronutrient deficiencies are all-pervasive, especially in aspirational states, Mr Basanta Kumar Kar, fondly known as ‘Nutrition Man’, said, “The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) highlighted micronutrient deficiency – I think there should be micronutrient survey every 3 years. We must talk about district-level food sufficiency of 6 food groups immediately in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. Besides, Anganwadi centers should be developed as centers of excellence to ensure better convergence of services.”

“The best option for our population is to have a diet as diversified as possible. However, the socio-economic and logistic realities tell us such a diet may not be affordable to everyone, which makes availability of fortified food through PDS important,” says TarunVij, Country Director, GAIN India.

To inform consumers if their food item has required fortification, FSSAI has approved use of a blue ‘F+’ sign on the packets. Ms. Rohini Saran, Deputy Lead, Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India said, “FSSAI approved fortified products get a blue F+ sign that can be seen on the packet.FSSAI has a mass fortification strategy through both government safety net programmes and open markets. There are about 80 brands in the market for fortified oil and 55 for fortified milk. Traction was slow for rice and wheat flour but it’s increasing now.”

“Lack of these essential micronutrients can cause disease, disability, and even death. It affects all sexes and ages, but women and children are more vulnerable to the shortfall and have been at the receiving end for a long, long time. Lack of micronutrients in our diet is known as ‘hidden hunger’ that affects 80 percent of adolescents and is a serious cause of concern for expecting and new mothers. The pandemic has accentuated the problem due to disrupted availability and access. We should devise a feasible way to address the issue for the world changed by the pandemic,” says Mr. Kamal Narayan, CEO, Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council.

Aiming to raise the awareness and discussion around nutrition among children, a fact highlighted by Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his ‘Mann kiBaat’ broadcast, the event will have a special segment titled ‘Bharat Nutrition Quiz Show with School Kids’, where students from all over India will participate. Discussion forums involving leading dieticians, nutritionists, food entrepreneurs, and influencers will be held under ‘Good Food Talk Show’ while ‘Healthy Khayega India’, a special live session, will host celebrity chefs.

‘Bharat Nutrition Week’ is being hosted with support from Asian Research and Training Institute for Skill Transfer (ARTIST), WWW Foundation, World of Wellbeing (WOW), and the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI). The event will culminate on 7th September.

Related: Some people are using breastmilk for bodybuilding! Is it really beneficial for adults?

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