Of the 222 million metric tons of rice that is industrially milled each year, less than one percent is fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. Globally, 82 countries have mandatory legislation to fortify wheat and maize flour, but the opportunity to leverage rice to improve public health has yet to be tapped on a large scale. Only six countries currently have mandatory rice fortification legislation, although voluntary fortified rice is available in Brazil, Columbia and the Dominican Republic. However, the accessibility of fortified rice ranges across the countries. In advance of the world’s first-ever global summit on Food Fortification (#FutureFortified), co-hosted by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the Government of Tanzania, we examine food fortification developments taking place around the globe. Rice fortification’s role in ending ‘hidden hunger’ Globally, an estimated two billion people are affected by micronutrient malnutrition or ‘hidden hunger’. Its negative and often lifelong consequences for health, growth, immune and reproductive functions, productivity and mental development are devastating. Micronutrient deficiencies affect all age groups, but young children and women of reproductive age are particularly vulnerable. Worldwide, the most prevalent micronutrient deficiencies are iron, zinc, vitamin A, iodine and folate. In some developing countries, several different micronutrient deficiencies can occur simultaneously. Micronutrient deficiencies are accountable for approximately seven percent of the global burden of disease. In this article, GAIN’s Caroline Manus outlines how fortification of one of the world’s most widely consumed commodities, rice, should become a higher international development priority.
42 | Milling and Grain
Rice fortification: an untapped opportunity by Caroline Manus, Associate, Large Scale Food Fortification, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
ortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals in food, seasoning or condiments so as to improve their nutritional quality without altering product characteristics, such as colour, odour, and texture. Food fortification has been shown to be both an effective and cost effective method of improving intakes of micronutrient deficiencies in population groups that buy one or more commonly consumed foods. The Copenhagen Consensus has rated this among the top three international development priorities. Recent evidence from Europe has emphasised the need for sustained effort as withdrawal of fortification programs leads to re-emergence of micronutrient deficiencies.