April 28th, 2010 | Global Times Government to promote fortified rice to help curb health risks
China has started promoting fortified rice and will phase out the use of less nutritious varieties from the market, government health officials said at a news conference on Monday.
In an effort to curb health problems caused by poor quality rice, a program spearheaded by the National Public Nutrition Improvement Project Office and the Center for Public Nutrition and Development (PNDC) will try to promote rice packed with enriched Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, nicotinic acid and folic acid, plus iron and zinc, to a third of the country within three years.
Inadequate micronutrients expose people to health risks, Victoria Sekitoleko, a representative with the Food and Agriculture Organization, said at the press conference.
She said iron deficiency has affected more than 2 billion people in nearly every country and vitamin A deficiency worldwide has placed some 250 million children at risk.
However, some people are not happy with the program.
“It’s strange. It’s the first time I’ve heard that the rice eaten for generations in China are not healthy” a qq.com user wrote on the site.
Zhang Zhixiang, vice chairman of the China National Food Industry Association and who oversees the new effort, said there’s some misunderstanding. “As the technology advances, many nutrients in rice become lost during the refining process,” Zhang told the Global Times Tuesday.
The report on the 4th China Health and Nutrition Survey issued in 2004 showed that vitamin and mineral deficiencies are some of the worst problems threatening the health of Chinese people.
PNDC announced in 2006 that 120 million people were under nutrition, leading to a labor loss of 540 billion yuan (calculated on salaries).
“The fortification will complement the nutrient losses and offer people more essential micronutrients like antioxidant vitamin E, which can enhance immune function,” Zhang said, adding that fortification poses no danger.
Tests conducted on students at the Dandelion School in Beijing by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the malnourishment rate fell by half from 30 percent after the students were fed fortified rice.
But some were still not convinced.
“There will be a price hikes. And large producers will make more money,” Guan Chunhua, a resident in Quanzhou, East China’s Fujian Province, told the Global Times Tuesday, adding that only rich people could afford the enriched rice.
The price for fortified rice will range from 8 yuan ($1.17) per kilogram to 20 yuan ($2.9), six times as much as ordinary rice, according to the officials.
“It is for sure that the fortified rice will be more expensive, but the country will not force people to buy them. In addition, if it gets popular, the price will go down as the demand increases,” Zhang said.
By Huang Jingjing