Public and private sector dynamics in scaling up rice fortification: the Colombian experience and its lessons

Background: Fortification of cereal grains with at least iron or folic acid is legislated in 85 countries worldwide. Relative to wheat and maize flour, rice fortification is relatively new and provides an opportunity to deliver essential micronutrients to populations that consume rice as a dietary staple.

Objective: To describe miller and public sector experiences and perspectives on rice fortification with micronutrients in Colombia and offer recommendations for policy makers.

Methods: Interviews with Colombian rice millers, research and development personnel, and public sector leaders; desk review of key documents.

Results: In Colombia, rice fortified with micronutrients is market driven and a few very large rice millers, currently representing about 35% of the market, have voluntarily fortified rice since 2002. The technology used (spraying) is unique to Colombia and to date there is no independent verification of nutrient retention after washing and cooking rice fortified through this technology. Millers are unwilling to switch to more proven methods, such as extrusion or coating, which will incur higher capital investment and recurring costs. Despite interest from multiple stakeholders between 2002 and 2011, mandatory rice fortification is not part of the Colombian government policy as of July 2015.

Conclusion: Rice fortified with micronutrients through spraying technology has achieved moderate coverage in Colombia, but the technology is unproven, its effectiveness unknown, and public health impact likely limited. For rice fortification to be an effective nutrition intervention to improve micronutrient status, policy makers should explore standards to guide industry and improvements to regulatory capacity.



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