Fortifying Rice: A Public Health Panacea?
By: Talking Nutrition Editors
New WHO guidelines open opportunities:
- Fortifying staple foods, such as flour and rice, with vitamin and minerals is being used to successfully tackle major public health issues in vulnerable populations globally.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently confirmed that fortifying rice is a valid and valuable method of improving nutrient intake.
- Advances in rice fortification technology now mean that high-quality micronutrients can be added to rice without requiring behavior change from consumers.
Making the rice choice
Rice is eaten by over half over the world’s population, making it the number one food staple. But while rice provides calories, it has little nutritional value. Children and adults whose diets are reliant on the crop often don’t consume enough vitamins and minerals to support their growth, development and longer-term health. In fact, two billion people – or over a quarter of the global population – are thought to suffer from what is known as ‘hidden hunger’.
Fortification, in its various forms, has been a popular method of improving public health for almost a century and is mandatory for some products in countries where populations are at risk of certain micronutrient deficiencies. Almost a third of industrially milled wheat flour is now fortified worldwide, yet efforts to improve the nutritional status of rice are relatively new. The support of NGOs such as WHO, alongside scientific
and technological advances, means that the proportion of rice kernels on the market that are fortified is expected to increase significantly in the near future.
Efficacy through extrusion
There are a number of different ways vitamins and minerals can be added to rice. Traditional methods, such as dusting and coating, often have a limited impact on health because the nutrients are largely lost when rice is soaked, rinsed or cooked in excess water during food preparation. Instead, DSM offers a unique technology that sees vitamins and minerals blended with broken-down rice, and safely “locked in” when new kernels are produced through hot extrusion. The fortified rice looks, cooks and tastes just like its unfortified counterpart.
Boosting the nutritional value of rice – a cheap, accessible and widely-consumed staple, has the potential to significantly benefit the health of millions of vulnerable people worldwide. As fortified rice becomes more common, and governments look to implement mandatory fortification legislation, it is essential that programs use high-quality vitamins, minerals and technology to ensure that malnutrition is addressed effectively.
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Improving public health
Rice is an ideal vehicle for fortification and, with the use of hot extrusion technology, offers a sustainable and cost-effective method of improving nutritional status globally.
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