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Now, salt with the double edge

After iodine, iron is set to be the next big additive in table salt.

Shamni Pande | Print Edition: March 21, 2010

Even as Indian consumers warm up to atta (wheat flour), cornflakes and biscuits fortified with vitamins, the biggest "vehicle" for delivery of micro nutrients, it seems, may well turn out to be common salt. Soon, ironfortified salts will hit the markets in India. Thanks to a public-private partnership that has developed the technology to combine salt with iron and iodine—double fortified salt (DFS)— without altering its aspect or flavour. The aim: fight malnutrition and, consequently, diseases that come about by low levels of immunity.

At the vanguard of the salt gambit is Micronutrient Initiative (MI), an Ottawaheadquartered NGO. "We are working with the government in several (states) to offer them our technology for double fortified salts. Also, we are open to sharing the technology with the private sector who can offer this added benefit to consumers for a cost," says M.G. Venkatesh Mannar, President, MI, without giving details of cost.

 TWO-IN-ONE ADVANTAGE

  • Double fortified salt provides consumers benefits of both iron and iodine.
  • Its use will help reduce malnutrition disorders, including anaemia.

WHY INDIA INC. IS INTERESTED

  • Iron fortification can also be offered by salt brands. for a price to consumers who can afford it.
  • Many corporates see it as a part of their CSR initiatives.
To start off, the NGO has supported a DFS manufacturing line at the Tamil Nadu Salt Corporation plant, which produces 300 tonnes of DFS, catering to as many as 3.6 million schoolchildren in 29 Tamil Nadu districts through the state's Noon Meal Scheme aimed at children from lowincome backgrounds.

A bevy of corporates such as Tata Chemicals, PepsiCo India, ITC Foods and Britannia, among others, is now looking to jump onto the bandwagon — i.e., use iron fortification in various ways. ITC Foods and Tata Chemicals are already interested. "We are working on the technology to offer iron in salt along with the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad," says Ashvini Hiran, COO (Consumer Products), Tata Chemicals. If all goes well, Tata Chemicals' DFS could hit retail stores by this year-end. Pricing is yet to be decided.

For many companies, it's also a part of their corporate and social responsibility initiative. For instance, PepsiCo is already looking to offer a concentrate that can be used to make a beverage, or as an affordable snack. The humble salt then may emerge as one of the most potent weapons in the fight against malnutrition.

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