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PIA Press Release
2006/11/28

Nutrition council pushes for rice fortification

Davao City (28 November) -- The National Nutrition Council (NNC) pushes for iron fortification of rice to arrest the problem on iron deficiency anemia (IDA) which has plagued more than half of pre-school children and about half of the population of pregnant and lactating mothers.

Regional Nutrition Program Coordinator Teresa Ungson of NNC 11 saw no reason why iron fortification of rice could not be fully done at the regional level as the technology is within reach for rice millers.

Ungson bared that Grains Fortificant Marketing based in General Santos City is capable of producing rice fortificants for rice millers use.

The Food Fortification Act of 2000 mandates micro-nutrients fortification of staple Filipino food to arrest illnesses brought about by malnutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies.

Ungson disclosed that 63 percent of the one-to-two-year old children are affected with IDA and that 40 percent to 43 percent of pregnant and lactating mothers are suffering from it.

"Iron deficiency is the biggest problem among micro-nutrient deficiencies," she said.

Aside from being pallor, persons suffering from IDA feel general weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, resulting to decreased productivity, poor academic performance and low level of hemoglobin.

Blending rice with iron is seen to deliver fastest results to intervention on IDA problem as "Filipinos are rice eaters."

"Iron fortification of rice should be done at the national level," she said noting that there are LGUs in Southern Mindanao which had made advances regarding this concern.

Ungson said Davao City government is reportedly coming up with an ordinance requiring millers to fortify rice with iron and food establishments to make iron fortified rice available in their outlets.

Ungson pointed out that iron fortification policy would not be of much burden for rice millers since they can pass on to consumers the P1.00 per kilo cost incurred for such.

"There's no reason for them not to fortify," she said.

Otherwise, rice millers would be penalized either through paying fine or revocation of business licenses, she said.

In a dialogue, rice millers, however expressed willingness to go on rice fortification but Ungson said "they are only asking us to drum up advocacy to create a demand for fortified rice."

The National Food Authority (NFA) has started rice fortification but it is giving priority to Food for School Program (FSP), a program of the national government that rations rice to malnourished school children. (PIA XI/JMDA) [top]

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