#FutureFortified: Working together to support global nutrition through fortified rice

By:  Talking Nutrition Editors

  • Growing awareness of the links between good nutrition and optimal immune function, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, means that access to nutritious diets has never been more important.1 However, vulnerable populations across the world often do not get sufficient intake of the nutrients they need, leaving them at risk of malnutrition, weakened immune systems and increased susceptibility to infections and illness.
  • As part of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) 2021 Second Global Summit on Food Fortification virtual series, Yannick Foing, DSM’s Global Director of Nutrition Improvement, joined speakers from Organizations including Nutrition International, Food Fortification Initiative (FFI), World Food Programme (WFP), Olam International and more, to present insights into the potential of rice fortification for closing global micronutrient gaps.
  • From current market distribution to the uses of fortified rice in today’s world, we discuss the main takeaways from the session plus insights on the future of rice fortification as a tool for tackling malnutrition and keeping the world’s growing population healthy.

Malnutrition is a public health crisis that severely impacts social and economic development, with an estimated two billion people worldwide struggling to consume enough essential nutrients to support functions such as immunity.2 The GAIN 2021 Second Global Summit on Food Fortification series brought together experts from a range of organizations. The event aimed to encourage the widespread fortification of staple foods, such as rice, to tackle the issue on a global scale and support progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of zero hunger by 2030. Read on to access some of the main learnings from the webinar, or watch the full session on demand at the link below.

Accessing the potential of rice fortification

Fortification is one of the most effective, safe and cost-efficient solutions for malnutrition, particularly in staple foods that make up the majority of global diets. Corinne Ringholz, Food Fortification Advisor at the WFP, explored the correlation of regions where malnutrition is most prevalent and those where rice is most commonly consumers, noting significant opportunities for the impact of rice fortification. This was echoed in the presentation from Nutrition International, where Senior Technical Advisor for Food Fortification, Manpreet Chadha, discussed the real-life implications of this correlation during her case study analysis. She explained how regions are selected for rice fortification initiatives, as well as highlighting how fortification has the potential to contribute to the aversion of 55.4 million cases of anemia and 36,000 cases of neural tube defects annually, as well as savings of US $27 billion in related health and economic benefits.

Making moves: The distribution of fortified rice

Corinne detailed the work the WFP has completed over the past decade in bringing fortified rice trials to regions such as Egypt, India, Bangladesh and more, explaining the steps required in order to scale up rice fortification. After achieving buy-in from the relevant stakeholders, organizations must build the supply chain through the main channels of accessibility.

Firstly – and most effectively – is mandatory distribution, where all rice intended for human consumption is required by law to be fortified, ensuring sustained demand for producers. Scott Montgomery, Director of FFI, explained that the three most important parameters for successful rice fortification are effective storage to ensure micronutrient stability, preparation and acceptance. With more legislation advocating for fortification initiatives, infrastructure can be put in place to optimize storage and preparation facilities. And, with both mandatory and voluntary fortification, consumers do not need to change their purchasing or cooking habits and acceptability will be achieved. Mandatory fortification is currently in place in seven countries worldwide, with more expected to follow suit.

Secondly, fortified rice can be distributed through the ‘social safety net’, where it is offered to vulnerable populations through organized programs. Finally, fortified rice can be supplied through voluntary channels and retail markets. This is dependent on consumer demand and at the discretion of the industry at large. The pandemic has exacerbated economic and supply chain issues across the world, leaving families struggling to provide a varied diet for their children and turning to fortified rice as an affordable and nutritious solution.

Platforms for change: Optimizing the impact of fortified rice

During the session, DSM’s Yannick Foing identified three current opportunities for food fortification initiatives:

  • An immunity-supporting tool that may help the body respond to vaccinations. As governments worldwide work to roll out vaccinations for the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have hypothesized a link between an individual’s nutritional status and the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.3 Much of the developing world is yet to be vaccinated. Improving the nutritional intake of these populations through fortified rice may therefore have the potential to not only support immunity, but also vaccine response on a global scale.
  • School feeding programs. These cater to a vulnerable demographic where adequate nutrition is particularly important. Children need to consume not only enough calories, but also enough nutrients to grow and develop. Fortified rice helps to close the nutrient gap prevalent in children across the world, helping to support their cognitive and physical development as well as their immune health. Ram Chandra Das, Director General of the Bangladeshi Department of Women Affairs, explained how school feeding programs in Bangladesh are now reaching three million primary school students, offering fortified rice to improve their nutrient intake.
  • Workforce nutrition programs. Factors such as increased sick leave and lowered productivity have been directly linked to nutritional status and can significantly influence the financial and social development of businesses and communities, meaning that implementing nutritional programs is often in the best interests of both employers and their workforce.4 In his presentation, Yannick explained how the health and business benefits of fortified rice can contribute to savings of up to 20% in lost productivity.5 In fact, DSM has seen the benefits firsthand through its own programs providing fortified rice to factory workers in India.

Fortifying global food systems

The GAIN summit shows how global organizations are collaborating to develop solutions to tackle malnutrition worldwide. Through our partnerships in the public and private sectors, DSM works to create affordable, aspirational and accessible nutritional solutions that can help keep the world’s growing population health. Championing food fortification worldwide will also support progress towards our recent strategic food system commitments, which state that by 2030 DSM commits to enable the micronutrient gap of 800 million vulnerable people to be closed, as well as to support the immunity of 500 million people.

Want to learn more about the future of food fortification and its potential for driving positive change in global food systems? Watch the full webinar from the GAIN summit on-demand here.

Published on

15 October 2021

Tags

  • food fortification
  • Nutrition Improvement
  • Industry News
  • R&D
  • Procurement
  • Senior Management
  • Article

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References

  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ‘Maintaining a healthy diet during the COVID-19 pandemic’, [report], 2020. 
  2. P Bhaskaram, ‘Micronutrient malnutrition, infection, and immunity: an overview’, Nutrition Reviews, 2002.
  3. Rayman M. and Calder P. Optimising COVID-19 vaccine efficacy by ensuring nutritional adequacy. British Journal of Nutrition, pg. 1-2, 2021.
  4. Christina Nyhus Dhillon et. al, ‘The evidence for workforce nutrition programmes’, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, [report], 2019.
  5. Wanjek, C, ‘Food at Work: Workplace solutions for malnutrition, obesity and chronic diseases’, International Labour Office, 2005.