This hidden hunger is especially pervasive among children.
These deficiencies have contributed to high levels of stunting, wasting and underweight children.
Micronutrient availability can make or break a balanced diet
But they can become toxic if consumed in large amounts.
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
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.
Milk fortification in Jharkhand
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
s 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.