USSEC India’s Opinion Sought for Oil Fortification Programs
- General News
USSEC’s opinion was sought for India’s oil fortification programs. USSEC’s India Soy Food program director Dr. Ratan Sharma was approached by CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), GAIN (Global Alliance in Nutrition) and FACE (Food and Agriculture Centre of Excellence) to provide guidance. This meeting took place during the “Interactive Session on Fortification and Meeting of National Alliance for Edible Oil Fortification” in New Delhi on December 5.
Micronutrient malnutrition is a major problem identified as responsible for the high infant mortality rate and other disorders in India. This type of malnutrition is due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and often goes unnoticed, even by those affected. The harmful effects of these deficiencies have been given more focus and are now prioritized as a pressing public health challenge across the country.
The Indian Food Industry is cognizant of this fact and has been in the process of undertaking product innovations that adequately address the micronutrient fortification of food products, covering all staples that are consumed widely across income groups. Fortification is identified as an effective mechanism to address the micronutrient gaps in regular diets. Oil fortification is positioned as a part of a long-term sustainable solution to the vitamin A and D deficiency in the target groups.
CII has collaborated with GAIN to launch an initiative on national edible oil fortification. The project aims at building consensus around fortification as an industry-led initiative and generates evidence on the merits of business-led expansion of fortified edible oil portfolio. This was the first meeting of the alliance and USSEC was identified as a partner for sharing information.
Siraj Chaudhary, chairman of Cargill India, was nominated as the chairman of the National Alliance for Edible Oil Fortification. Cargill is a key supporter of this program, along with other stakeholders. Ruchi Soya, Vippy Industries and several other soy oil producing companies are also part of this alliance. Representing USSEC, Dr. Sharma provided in-depth background about the health and functional benefits of soy oil. He also stressed opportunities for value addition through fortifying soy oil with vitamins A and D. Some of these technologies will back up good nutrition and make the oil more salable for better marketing. Dr. Sharma urged soy oil producers and refiners to fortify their soy oil with these vitamins. UNICEF-India is also actively involved in oil fortification under the promotional message “Paustik Oil” (meaning nutritious and healthy oil in the Hindi language). There were productive deliberations at the meeting on techno – commercial aspects such as the heat stability of vitamins in soy oil, safety assessments, regulatory issues and cost.
India is a net importer of edible oils handling about 10.75 million metric tons (MMT) of edible oil from other countries, of which more than 1.75 MMT is soy oil. USSEC’s ability to convince the oil sector in the field of value addition will help utilize superior forms of soy oil. Dr. Sharma feels that U.S soy oil could readily meet the required nutritional criteria and could provide a quick solution for most micro-nutrient related malnutrition problems. From a U.S soy oil perspective, he adds that the need for imports is further amplified by the fact that domestic soy oil production has been sluggish due to stagnant soy crops in India. Dr. Sharma told the group that this initiative could tackle three aspects at one time: technology and nutritional up gradation of oil; marketing of superior branded oils; and the social cause of solving malnutrition problems.