The Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) is established under India’s government department that regulates food, known as The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in collaboration with TATA Trusts. The FFRC works dedicatedly to provide essential support to stakeholders like relevant government ministries, food businesses, development partners etc., promoting and supporting food fortification efforts across India. The team is comprised of approximately 10 to 12 members.
In 2016, FSSAI issued operational standards for fortification of food across India. As of now, the standards have been issued for milk, edible oil, wheat flour, rice, and double fortified salt. The standards for processed foods are underway.
According to FFRC, fortification of milk and oil are the low hanging fruit in fortification (with vitamins A and D). This is largely because there is no technological challenge in the fortification process and the production industries are less fragmented than in, say, wheat flour production.
We discussed the minutia of different food vehicles and different strategies to promote fortification. Milk and oil fortification is voluntarily now becoming an industry norm, whereas rice and wheat flour fortification needs more investment from various stakeholders. Double fortified salt supplies are enough to cover the government programmes, although open market availability needs capacity building. There also remains the need for improved quality assurance, improvement of laboratory capacity for quality assurance, consumer education, and demand generation.
We also received guidance on location selection, including consideration of most vulnerable districts, neglect of north-eastern states, etc. It was suggested that in order to implement a project in north-eastern states, the following routes may be beneficial: a) coordinate with local partners, b) reach out to state decision makers, c) visit state and carry out supply chain mapping to assess feasibility, d) prepare a detailed report, e) offer recommendations to state, f) install fortification equipment, and g) allow states to scale. A member of FFRC has been identified as responsible for scaling up fortification across each State. There are stronger incentives for north-eastern states to take on some of these costs due to cost sharing mechanisms (e.g. 90 percent budget could be met by central government in contrast to other states where it is closer to 50 percent).
We had an extensive discussion of the merits of working with rice vs. wheat that largely aligns with what is presented elsewhere in this document. Wheat challenges centre around fragmentation of industry. Rice is challenging due to more complicated multi-step supply chain. FFRC sees the push for rice in the social safety net programmes as a good one, given that other grains may be distributed besides wheat flour. They also pointed out the challenges in working in the PDS system and the concerns that in MDM, wheat flour is not necessarily served daily even in wheat eating states given that rice is easier to prepare at scale. Centralisation/modernisation of the wheat industry is a prerequisite for large-scale flour fortification. If we were to work in flour fortification, suggested target states can be Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana.
Recommended areas of collaboration:
FFRC spoke about states that have been very difficult to infiltrate, due to decisions of the State, budget constraints and resource crunch because of state-level political disengagement with fortification. There are several approaches that could be trialled to try to overcome the political barrier in rice fortification: provide states with rice blenders, strengthen millers and support local development of machines.