[Editorial] Inter-Ministerial Panel on Nutrition

About the Panel:

The inter-ministerial panel, that recently made recommendations to improve nutrition in India, is composed of officials and scientists from:

    • Ministry of Food
    • Ministry of Health
    • Ministry of Women and Child Development
    • Ministry of Education
    • Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)
    • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

What are the observations on the state of nutrition?

  • The panel report drew attention to the National Family Health Survey-5 findings. The survey had documented an increase in rates of child undernourishment, wasting and stunting in most of the states.
  • The survey had also noted an increase in anaemia among pregnant women and women of reproductive age. Among children (upto 5 years old), prevalence of anaemia has increased from 59% to 65%.
  • At the same time, there is an increase in prevalence of obesity among children of all age groups.
  • This indicates unhealthy heating habits and micronutrient deficiency in the diet.
  • This trend plagues India despite the National Food Security Act being in place since 2013 and the states recording rapid economic growth.
  • Currently, the persistent levels of under-nourishment is the single biggest public health issue in the country, according to the panel report.
  • The panel says that this silent crisis is likely to be aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the current provisions for nutritional security?

  • The National Food Security Act provides nutritional standards for state-run food safety programs under its Schedule II.
  • Some of these food programs include:
    1. Mid-day Meal Scheme
    2. PM Poshan– covering government and government-aided school students- at levels of lower primary classes and upper primary classes.
    3. Integrated Child Development Services Scheme– covering children (between 6 months and 6 years) and pregnant/lactating mothers.
  • The Act quantifies nutrition per meal in terms of calories and protein content.
  • When it comes to supplementary provision, the cost is borne by the states and the UTs.
  • 13 states and 3 UTs serve eggs as part of ‘additional food items’ in mid-day meals. This is of differing frequencies- ranging from once a month to 5 days/ week.
  • Inclusion of eggs face opposition from many religious groups and even from certain Chief Ministers.

What are the panel’s recommendations?

  • The panel has called for legal backing for provision of protein-rich food items (such as eggs, nuts and legumes) as part of government food safety programs, being implemented in schools and anganwadis. This would mean a revision of Schedule II of NFSA.
  • It has also called for legal backing for micronutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B12, vitamin B2, folate, iron, calcium and zinc – instead of a purely calorie-centric approach.
  • For those who don’t consume eggs, the report suggests doubling the quantity of nuts and seeds.
  • It has recommended new standards of kilocalories and protein per meal.

Changes:

Costs:

  • The panel has worked out the cost implications of the recommendations to be 9.6 INR/ meal (excluding milk and fruits) for lower primary classes. The current cooking cost is Rs 4.97.
  • Similarly, for upper primary classes, a meal would cost Rs 12.1, while the current cooking cost is Rs 7.45.

Lower Primary Classes:

Component Current Norms Proposed Norms
Food grains 100 g 70 g (cereals and millets)
Pulses 20 g 25 g (pulses and legumes)
Vegetables 50 g (including leafy vegetables) 75 g (including 50 g leafy vegetables)
Oil/ fat 5 g 10 g
Nuts and seeds 10 g
Eggs 50 g
Accounts for: 450 kilocalories

12 g protein

450 kilocalories

15-20 g protein

170 mg calcium

2 mg zinc

3.5   mg iron

50 microgram folate

100 microgram vitamin A

 

  • In addition to this, 150 g milk and 100 g fruits have been suggested.

Upper Primary Classes:

Component Current Norms Proposed Norms
Food grains 150 g 100 g (cereals and millets)
Pulses 30 g 35 g (pulses and legumes)
Vegetables 75 g (including leafy vegetables) 100 g (including 50 g leafy vegetables)
Oil/ fat 7.5 g 10 g
Nuts and seeds 15 g
Eggs 50 g
Accounts for: 700 kilocalories

20 g protein

700 kilocalories

22-25 g protein

270 mg calcium

4         mg zinc

5.5 mg iron

75 microgram folate

145 microgram vitamin A

 

  • In addition to this, the panel suggested 200 g milk and 100 g fruits.

Pregnant and Lactating Mothers:

Component Current Norms Proposed Norms
Kilocalories 600 kcal 600 kcal
Protein 18-20 g 22-25 g
Calcium 335 mg
Zinc 4 mg
Iron 7 mg
Folate 160 micrograms
Vitamin A 240 microgram

 

Anganwadi Children:

6 month- 3 years old:

Component Current Norms Proposed Norms
Kilocalories 500 kcal 400 kcal
Protein 12-15 g 15-20 g
Calcium 135 mg
Zinc 1 mg
Iron 2 mg
Folate 35 micrograms
Vitamin A 60 microgram

 

3-6 years old:

Component Current Norms Proposed Norms
Kilocalories 500 kcal 400 kcal
Protein 12-15 g 15-20 g
Calcium 150 mg
Zinc 1.5 mg
Iron 3 mg
Folate 40 micrograms
Vitamin A 80 microgram

Conclusion:

The NFSA has been in force for over 9 years now. Yet, it has managed to achieve only marginal improvements in the Indian population’s nutritional status. The tweaks proposed by the panel could help improve the situation.

 

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