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Milk fortification in India: The journey so far

Edward W. Bresnyan's picture
 NDDB
In India alone, 185 million people don’t get enough nutrients. This hidden hunger is especially pervasive among children. as more than 70 percent of India’s children under five are deficient in Vitamin D, and 57 percent of all children in the country lack adequate levels of Vitamin A. Credit: NDDB
Globally, more than two billion people are deficient in key micronutrients, which are essential to their good health.
 
In India alone, 185 million people don’t get enough nutrients.
 
This hidden hunger is especially pervasive among children. More than 70 percent of India’s children under five are deficient in Vitamin D, and 57 percent of all children in the country lack adequate levels of Vitamin A. 
 
These deficiencies have contributed to high levels of stunting, wasting and underweight children.
 UNICEF 
Global micronutrient deficiency (as a percentage of the population). Two billion people in the world lack key micronutrients such as Vitamin A or iron. South Asia has the most critical malnutrition levels. Source: UNICEF 


Micronutrient availability can make or break a balanced diet
 
If accessible and affordable, nutritional supplements taken in the form of capsules or tablets can mitigate the symptoms of hidden hunger. But they can become toxic if consumed in large amounts.  
 
Unlike supplements, food fortification is a simple, preventive and low-cost approach to curb micronutrient deficiencies.
 
But except for mandatory iodine fortification of salt, India lags in adopting food fortification as a scalable public health intervention.  
 
This is a missed opportunity as a glass of fortified milk (320g) can provide approximately 34 percent of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A and 47 percent of Vitamin D.
 
In 2016, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India released standards for the fortification of five staple food items: rice, wheat, salt, oil, and milk. Further to that, regulations are now in place to fortify milk variants such as low fat, skimmed, and whole milk with Vitamin A and D.   
 
But despite its significant health benefits, and while established for more than three decades by companies such as Mother Dairy, a subsidiary of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), milk fortification is not yet common practice across the Indian milk industry.
 
To fill that gap, NDDB partnered in 2017 with the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the World Bank, and The India Nutrition Initiative, Tata Trusts to explore the possibilities of large-scale milk fortification in India.
 
Over the last twelve months, this collaboration has enabled ten milk federations, dairy producer companies, and milk unions across the country to pilot milk fortification for their consumers. Fifteen others have initiated the process.

 NDDB
On-site training in milk fortification. Credit: NDDB
Milk fortification in Jharkhand
 
The state of Jharkhand is one of the worst affected in India with acute Vitamin A and D deficiencies.
 
Now, the Jharkhand Milk Federation is a pioneer in taking up milk fortification.
 
In May 2017, the Federation started daily fortification of 13,000 liters of milk. Within one year, the Federation expanded daily fortification to 80,000 liters.
 
About six million consumers across the state now access fortified milk. In the long run, this initiative will likely improve the health and wellbeing of people of Jharkhand and serve as a showcase for other States wishing to accelerate their efforts in milk fortification.
 
The way forward for milk fortification in India
 
Even though India is the world’s largest dairy producer and one of the largest consumers of milk, only 35 to 40 percent of the marketed milk pass through organized channels such as milk unions, dairy producer companies, and the private sector.
 
The challenge remains to convert more milk in the unorganized sector to processed and packaged milk and eventually to fortified milk.
 
Also, there are other variants of milk such as cow milk and full cream milk available in the market for which fortification standards are not yet in place.
 
The progress achieved in scaling up milk fortification in India through the SAFANSI Milk Fortification Project has set up the base for dairy industry readiness for widespread milk fortification across India.

Comments

Submitted by Nazir Hussain on

putting milk in children is the best investment, and putting wholesome milk is an even better strategy.

Submitted by Devidas Bhadange on

Need of hour is make available vit D& A to milk marketers & it's processing & packing in their own as fortified milk
Pl let us know supply source ,it's price & how much to be added.

Submitted by Heinz Peters on

I wonder if that is the right way ahead - to drop some artificial vitamins in the milk, which is probably mainly bought by those who could anyway afford a proper balanced diet (based on vegetables and legumes with all the needed nutrients). The majority of undernourished children in the villages are not part of the commercial milk value chain, hence, do not benefit from it. It would make more sense to support the families (through awareness building and production support) to use good food, like e.g. carrots for Vitamin A or eggs for Vitamin D, and prepare it properly (like adding oil or cooking vegetable not to long). Fortification of commercial goods is neither effective nor efficient for solving hidden hunger.

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