The government has decided to stop the distribution of fortified rice to sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia patients in Wayanad district through the public distribution system (PDS) following strong opposition from political parties and social activists.
A meeting of MLAs from Wayanad district, called by Food and Civil Supplies Minister G.R. Anil in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday, decided to direct the Civil Supplies Commissioner to collect details of such patients from the Health department and stop distribution of fortified rice to them.
Moreover, concern over distribution of fortified rice to pre-primary and primary schoolchildren suffering from sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia through the mid-day meal scheme will be conveyed to the departments concerned.
It was also decided to ask the Health Minister to constitute an expert committee to check whether the consumption of fortified rice would adversely affect the health of the public or those suffering from various illnesses.
Fortified rice is being distributed through PDS in Wayanad under the Centre’s Transformation of Aspirational Districts Programme to fight malnutrition, especially among tribespeople.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) defines fortification as “the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, and Vitamins A and D to staple foods such as rice, wheat, oil, milk, and salt to improve their nutritional value and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.”
However, activists pointed out that the Centre’s food security norms revealed that sickle cell anaemia patients should not consume iron-fortified rice, and thalassemia patients need doctor’s permission for its consumption.
T. Siddique, O.R .Kelu, and I.C .Balakrishnan, MLAs, attended the meeting.