October 23, 2015

23/10/2015: New online tool for sharing rice fortification resources


by Becky Tsang, Technical Officer, Food Fortification Initiative, Asia

First published in Milling and Grain, July 2015  

With any new initiative, half of the effort is communicating and collaborating with key partners to ensure efforts are cohesive, efficient, comprehensive, and well informed. Since 2004, the Food Fortification Initiative (FFI) has existed as a public-private-civic sector partnership to help country leaders plan, implement, and monitor fortification programs for wheat flour, maize flour, and rice.

Part of that effort includes tracking data on countries that fortify, the fortification legislation, and developing technical resources to help partners in fortification efforts. Given that global efforts in rice fortification are still growing and that there are limited opportunities for communication across partners, FFI has identified the need to fill that gap with an online tool for partners to share resources. The platform is being designed with four components:
  1. A database on fortified rice studies so that you can quickly refer to the literature and evidence on fortified rice. The literature on fortified rice covers nutrient retention in washing and cooking, fortified kernel nutrient composition, bioavailability trials, and organoleptic triangle tests and consumer acceptability. By collecting all of the published research on fortified rice in one place, making an informed decision about fortified rice, and identifying the information gaps to strategise future research becomes that much easier.
  2. A database on current, in-progress fortified rice research so that you can see what others are doing, reduce duplicate efforts, and disseminate information more easily. No one wants to reinvent the wheel, and for good reason, it’s a waste of time. In September 2014, the global development community and leaders from rice-consuming countries attended a Scaling Up Rice Fortification workshop in Bangkok, Thailand. Sharing and understanding the successes experienced by others in order to expedite growth and uptake is necessary to scale up rice fortification. Rice is consumed by over two billion people. FFI estimates that less than one percent of that rice is fortified. The opportunities are vast, but working together makes these opportunities more easily attainable. Without a concerted information-sharing effort, it is too easy to go at it alone, at best relying on word-of-mouth information, and at worst repeating the same mistakes that others have already learned from.
  3. A list of current fortified kernel producers to facilitate procurement. Rice fortification at this moment is experiencing a ‘chicken and the egg’ moment - there are a small number of producers because the demand is currently limited. The countries and importers interested in fortified rice often have difficulty finding fortified rice producers to meet their needs. Keeping a contact list of producers will help suppliers find new customers, and will help customers find the best-fortified kernels for their needs.
  4. Information on rice fortification activities, including subnational programs and pilots such as school feeding programs, or rice fortification pilots in social safety nets (ex: welfare food distribution). FFI currently keeps track of the number of countries with mandatory legislation for the fortification of wheat flour, maize flour, and rice.
However, the most action in rice fortification presently lies in sub-national programs and pilots, where governments and the development collaborate to understand how rice fortification fits into their country context. In Indonesia fortified rice is distributed by the government; in India, school-lunch programs to distribute fortified rice to schoolchildren are being piloted. Information about efforts that already exist is key to informing and guiding rice fortification strategies.


Future progress is key
Fortification of staple cereal grains with essential vitamins and minerals is a nutrition intervention that is estimated to prevent 38,417 serious birth defects every year and countless cases of micronutrient deficiencies. Cereal grain fortification is supported by international development agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, and WFP. With a consolidated effort, rice fortification can bring improved nutrition to the billions on Earth already consuming rice, and attain the same successes that wheat and maize flour fortification have already achieved around the world.

Do you have information you would like to share? Or would you like to see how the resource-sharing platform could assist your efforts in rice fortification? The platform is open-access, but an invitation to join must be requested to protect the privacy of partners who have submitted contact details or other information.

For questions or comments about the rice fortification resource-sharing platform, please contact Becky Tsang, FFI Technical Officer for Asia, at becky.tsang@ffinetwork.org    

Read the magazine HERE     
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