Representative Image / Photo: Vivek R Nair (Rice (Grihalakshmi, 2013 Nov 1))
Wayanad: The decision of the union government to supply fortified rice through public distribution systems, turns out be a concern for Wayanad, the lone district from Kerala selected for the scheme.
Fortification is the process of adding fortified rice kernels containing micronutrients (Iron, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12) to normal rice. Fortified rice is nearly identical to traditional rice in aroma, taste and texture. This process is done in the rice mills at the time of milling of rice.
The government rolled out the scheme to increase vitamin and mineral content in diets with low turnaround time and as a step towards nutritional security that helps in fighting anaemia and malnutrition in the country. However, some experts see red in the rationale. According to them, fortification in turn will be injurious to health. Some even allege that the move is to help the corporates in the fortification segment.
Nevertheless, among the Kerala districts, Wayanad has the highest density of individuals with Sickle Cell Anaemia (SCA) and Thalassemia. These are more often found in tribal population. Also, the individuals in this population rely on public distribution system for food.
In 2018, the union government’s food security mandates said that those with Thalassemia should consume fortified rice only on medical advice. It is also said those with SCA should never take fortified food items. The latest decision comes as a contradiction. Experts have been flagging the harms of providing fortified rice to a population with specific health issues. The intake can affect their liver, heart and hormone system. Stunting and heart diseases are some of the possibilities of unmonitored intake in individuals affected with SCA and Thalassemia.