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Iron rich rice to beat anaemia in children

India, which has twice the level of malnutrition compared to Africa, could introduce iron-enriched rice in school lunch meals to boost the health// of anaemic children, suggests a global NGO.

According to the Canada-based NGO Micronutrient Initiative, "extruded" rice fortified with iron can improve the health of anaemic children.

The fortification is done by powdering rice kernel and mixing it with high level of iron and reshaping it in the form of a rice grain through a process called extrusion.

"A meal containing just one grain of iron fortified rice mixed with 100 grains of normal rice can make all the difference," Luc Laviolette, Asia regional director of The Micronutrient Initiative, told IANS.

The NGO conducted a study on the benefits of the rice in an urban slum in Bangalore in cooperation with St John's National Academy of Health Sciences. The study found: "Extruded rice fortified with micronised ground ferric pyrophosphate (MGFP) has excellent sensory characteristics."

"Fed in a school lunch meal, it increases iron stores and reduces the prevalence of iron deficiency in Indian children," says the report, published in the American Society for Nutrition's journal.

It could be introduced in the form of tomato rice or mixed vegetable rice and is quite palatable, it said.

During the August 2004-April 2005 study, the MGFP-fortified rice (fortified at 3 and 5 mg of iron per 100 gram rice) was found to be indistinguishable from both cooked and uncooked natural rice.

"We are already in talks to introduce iron-fortified rice in three rice eating states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh," said Laviolette, who is hopeful the government will agree to supply the rice through the public distribution system so that it could reach more poor people.

The NGO has been working in India to provide nutrition supplements to children and young mothers in the form of
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