NEW DELHI: Directions issued by India’s top food regulator to mandatorily fortify packaged milk and edible oil with Vitamins A and D has found few takers. In October last year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had issued guidelines to milk and edible oils brands to mandatorily add these two crucial micronutrients in every packet being sold.
However, the regulator’s data shows that while only about 12 per cent milk being sold in the organised sector has followed the fortification norms, edible oil companies fare only slightly better at about 43 per cent. “We came up with the guidelines to address the lack of essential micronutrients in large numbers of the population,”
FSSAI chief executive officer Pawan Agarwal told The Sunday Standard. “Though companies have started following the directions over past few months, the speed has been slow.”
According to statistics with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the National Institute of Nutrition, about 70 per cent Indians are deficient in Vitamin D, while 30 per cent are deficient in Vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is estimated to be the highest in pre-school children at about 44-50 per cent.
The guidelines make it mandatory for milk brands to add 770 IU of Vitamin A and 550 IU of Vitamin D per litre of all varieties of milk—full cream, toned and double toned. Edible oils, on the other hand, are required to add 800 IU of Vitamin A and 550 IU of Vitamin D per litre.
This move is aimed at fulfilling about 40-50 per cent daily requirement of these two vitamins in people who consume the fortified products every day.
While many popular milk brands like Mother Dairy, Dailycious and Cream Line Dairy have started fortifying milk with the prescribed micronutrients, Amul and Sudha are still to follow suit. Patanjali is yet to introduce the measure.
“Fortification of either oil or milk leads to only a minor escalation in the production cost, about 10 paisa per litre. That shouldn’t be a problem for big companies,” Agarwal said.
“Fortification of foods started in 1918, and this led to near eradication of diseases like goitre, rickets, beriberi and pellagra in many countries,” said Partha Mazumdar, a Mumbai-based public health expert. “It’s good that authorities are coming up with such directions, but there should also be a mechanism to penalise the companies who don’t follow the norms. That will improve the compliance rate.”
Total volume of milk currently fortified with Vitamin A, D: 4 LLPD (lakh litres per day)
Total volume of milk sold in the organised sector: 380 LLPD
Fortified brands: Mother Dairy, Dailycious, Cream Line Dairy, Verka, Medha, Purabi, Saras
Total volume of oil fortified with Vitamin A, D: 2.48 MMT
Fortified oils: Dhara, Nature Fresh, Saffola, Fortune, Gemini, Dalda