Last week the World Food Programme (WFP) released a much-anticipated study on rice fortification that should pave the way for greater use of fortified rice in U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and WFP food assistance programs. The study demonstrated that rinse-resistant coated fortified rice and extruded fortified rice perform the same in terms of taste and impact on malnutrition.
USDA is already using fortified rice in the McGovern-Dole school feeding program but the tonnages have been limited by lack of access to rinse resistant coating technology. The results of this study should lead to greater use of all available fortification technologies in food aid programs and help bolster the use of U.S.-grown rice.
“The study concludes that extrusion and rinse resistant coating are both viable techniques for fortifying rice and that both fortification technologies are effective delivery devices for key nutrients” said Bobby Hanks, president of Louisiana Rice Mill and chairman of the USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee. “This is welcome news for the U.S. rice industry, which should now see benefits from greater programming of fortified rice and overall use of rice in feeding programs.”
USA Rice will be working closely with USAID on minor revisions to the commodity specifications for fortified rice with the expectation that these specifications will be released within the next few months. In addition, more work will be needed to ensure that certain nutrients will be effectively absorbed and that the common practice of pre-soaking rice in many recipient countries will not affect the bioavailability of key micronutrients in fortified rice.
“USAID has made it clear that once this study was completed, the agency would use all fortified rice in many of their feeding programs” said Hanks.
“With looming budget cuts that may negatively impact U.S. food aid programs, including the McGovern-Dole program that has provided more than 22 million meals to children in 41 countries, it is heartening to see that U.S.-grown fortified rice has received a positive evaluation from WFP in improving the nutritional quality of food aid delivered to vulnerable populations.”