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Centre begins awareness drive to counter myths about fortified rice

Nagaland News

Directs States to set up committee headed by Chief Secretary

DIMAPUR, JUNE 13: The Union Government has initiated a comprehensive awareness programme, including feeding and cooking demonstrations across Nagaland, Gujarat, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, to dispel myths about fortified rice, according to reports.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said that all States have been directed to set up steering committees headed by the respective Chief Secretaries to review the whole distribution process of fortified rice and make necessary changes suited to their local conditions.
On the alleged health risks associated with consumption of the rice variety, Pandey said that the benefits of rice fortification far outweigh the harmful effects.
“However, a comprehensive concurrent evaluation mechanism has been put in place”, he added.
According to the Food Secretary, the State Medical Department and ground functionaries are generally aware of pockets and the kind of diseases prevalent.
They will constantly monitor the distribution of fortified rice and report discrepancies through steering committees comprising health experts and other functionaries, he said.
Kapil Yadav, Additional Professor at Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS-Delhi, said: “There are some rare risks involved, but benefits are far more. India has the highest mortality in the world due to bleeding during delivery. Rice fortification helps offset this”.
Food fortification has been implemented in 140 countries. A disclaimer of rice fortification has been put in India, unlike in other countries, so that people are aware of what they are consuming, he said.
A high dose of iron is not recommended only for thalassemia major patients who are on blood transfusion, he added.
Siddharth Waghulkar, Deputy Head (Nutrition and School Feeding unit) at the United Nations World Food Programme, said that the micronutrient content in fortified rice is much higher than that found naturally in brown rice or parboiled rice.
Meanwhile, on the proposed expansion of the programme, the Food Secretary said that the Centre has started Phase-II distribution of fortified rice to high-burden districts via ration shops from April 1.
The Government’s aim is to distribute fortified rice in phases through all Central schemes by 2024, as announced by the Prime Minister in his address on the 75th Independence Day, to dwell upon the issue of malnutrition among the poor.
The first phase was started in October 2021, under which fortified rice was supplied through the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman-PM POSHAN (erstwhile Mid-Day Meal Scheme).
(Page News Service)