A conspiracy angle ?

Dr Ashwani Mahajan
Chapatis, rice, pulses, vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat etc. in our plate, automatically fulfill all our nutritional needs like carbohydrates, protein, vitamins etc. However, the problem is not that of eating habits; the basic predicament is that of poverty and resulting lack of purchasing power, which causes people’s inability to buy essential food items for nutrition. This leads to the lack of nutritious diet for our majority population. Paucity of nutrients due to poverty makes our children remain stunted (shorter height than expected at their age) and underweight. These children cannot work with full potential at their youth. There is no doubt that in order to reap demographic dividend in India, it is essential that our people remain healthy and educated; and for this, nutritional diet is very important.
In view of these facts, it is the natural goal of the society, which all people in the country are assured of nutritious diet and there is no deficiency of essential nutrients. Problem of nutrition is not limited to India; it is found in most of the underdeveloped countries. Of course, the government should ensure the availability of nutritious food in the country. However, in the garb of nutrition, private corporations shouldn’t be allowed to make profits.
Recently, an effort is being made by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to ensure that Vitamin ‘A’ and ‘D’ are essentially added in the refined edible oils, what’s termed as fortification. Argument being given is that in the process of refining edible oils, vitamin ‘A’ and ‘D’ is destroyed. As vitamin ‘A’ and ‘D’ are absolutely necessary for nutritious food, it would be good if we could fortify edible oils with vitamin ‘A’ and ‘D’ Interestingly, while taking this decision no opinion was sought from the research institutes and organizations in the country like ICMR. It seems that FSSAI officials are much obsessed with Bill & Milinda Gates Foundation, that didn’t deem it necessary to seek opinion from any other organization (including those of the government) or experts. Even the World Health Organization WHO has also admitted that there do not exist any standards of vitamin ‘A’ and ‘D’ fortification. Therefore, it will not be right to apply vitamin A and D fortification in a country like India.
‘Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition’ (Gain), is a US organisation, pushing for fortified edible oil, which needs to be looked into. Although this organisation talks about mixing of vitamins, minerals and other essential elements of nutrition in food throughout the world, it seems that in the guise of nutrition, this organisation’s real intent is to serve interests of some large multinational companies. Organisations and companies like ‘Bill Milinda Gates Foundation’ (BMGF), DSM, BASF, USAID etc. and many foreign governments are also collaborating in this work of ‘Gain’. Not only that, many foreign governments, agencies and companies have also made many frontal organisations to shield their identities, under which such activities are being executed. There are many such front organizations, including ‘World Food Program’, ‘Freedom from Hunger’, for which these foreign powers provide funds. A closer look reveals that from all these endeavours, private corporate interests are being served. So far, through these lobbying activities, these institutions have succeeded in accomplishing their evil designs in countries of Africa.
Is Fortification a Right Approach?
The lack of nutrients in our food items is a reality. However, we need to ensure that in this exercise we do not give birth to  more problems.
The first thing is that very few companies in the world make Vitamin ‘A’ and ‘D’. These companies have a practice of forming cartels. In this regard, some years ago, the European Union had imposed a penalty for exploiting the consumers by forming a cartel, which is the highest penalty yet. That is, without assessing the need of these vitamins, are we not falling under trap of these companies?
Secondly, we need to be aware of the lobbying and conspiracies of foreign companies in so called nutrition issues. About two decades ago, mustard oil was declared unsuitable for the consumption of humans under conspiracy hatched by multinationals, saying that it contained dropsy; which later proved to be untrue by today’s modern science. But due to that conspiracy, the farmers almost stopped producing mustard in our country and our dependence on imported edible oils increased from negligible to nearly rupees 70,000 crores. This push to fortification of refined edible oils in the country would further encourage import of edible oils, as domestically produced edible oil would be forced out of the market due to this mandatory fortification. In the process lakhs of small domestic oil producers will be forced to go out of business as this process of fortification requires plants and machinery of large scale, beyond the capacity of even relatively big producers of edible oil. Today we are importing edible oils of nearly $12 billion, which also includes low quality deodorised soya, canola etc, which gets mixed up in our edible oils and get added to our food chain. Baba Ramdev has also raised this issue in ‘Patanjali’s’ advertisements. It is unfortunate that FSSAI has not taken any step to deal with this menace of adulteration; however, it seems to be in undue hurry to introduce mixing of vitamin ‘A’ and ‘D’ in edible oils. The objective, with which FSSAI was formed, seems to have been forgotten, as no reports seem to be available on the website of FSSAI about the quality and contamination issues in samples collected by it. There are issues about junk food hazards and its nutritional value; however this also does not seem to be on the priority of FSSAI.
Thirdly, need for fortification arises because these vitamins are lost in the process of refining of edible oil. Conventional way of filtering of oil can solve this problem, and thus there will be no need for the fortification.
Fourthly, we have to keep in mind that there is no mechanism to avoid mixing of excessive Vitamin ‘A’ and ‘D’ in edible oils. It is believed that excessive exposure to these elements can lead to irreparable damage to health. We have to remember that due to excessive mixing of iodine (actually iodate) in salt, there has been a huge adverse effect on people’s health. In the method of making food in India, oils are cooked on a high flame, so there is a need to look into possible cross reactions between vitamin ‘A’ and ‘D’.


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