The Indian Food Composition Tables (IFCT) – 2017 was recently released by the Government of India. The publication contains data on 586 varieties of Indian food and their nutritive values. This is the first expansive and comprehensive food composition data to be released since 1971 with its own complete food composition database.
The IFCT serves as a handbook that will be just as relevant to the general public in making dietary choices as it will be for dieticians, medical and health professionals and students of nutrition. It forms a basis for developing dietary guidelines, framing of food regulations and food safety mechanisms and consumer education. The food industry can capitalize on this data for labeling and product development. The IFCT also has the potential to guide planning of institutional diets, sports nutrition and the food service industry.
“This will also be translated to something usable and helpful to the common person, as a mobile app, which will be ready in a couple of months,” said Mr JP Nadda, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 2011, initiated the Indian national food sampling and analysis program to develop a new and authoritative source of food composition data in India. Key foods were prioritized and analyzed for a comprehensive set of nutrients at the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad.
Dr Longvah, Director, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad said, “The new database covers more than 150 nutrients, many more than covered before including anti-nutrients and contaminants. The methodology took nearly two years to develop and the sampling was also extensive covering six well dispersed agro-ecological regions.” This database will be very useful for taking decisions to overcome health concerns in India. As explained by
Dr T Longvah, in India, malnutrition in children had been decreasing until 1997. However, since then it has stagnated at 43%. Diabetes is increasing currently reaching 6% and 23% of the population suffers from hypertension.
“We have more than 1,100 crops being cultivated in India and we need to have the nutritional value of each variety. Soil type, weather and many other factors affect their nutritional value. Agricultural systems contribute to nutritional security and science backed solutions are critical to address the needs,” said Dr Trilochan Mohapatra, Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) and Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Board Member, ICRISAT.
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Director General, ICMR, indicated that the database gives a better idea of what the average Indian is eating and will help in tackling the issue of hidden hunger.
According to Dr Ruth Charrondiere, Nutrition Officer, International Network of Food Data Systems (INFOODS), Food and Agriculture Organization: to overcome issues of malnutrition, over-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, it is necessary to step aside from the ‘business as usual’ approach. She says, “In FAO for example, we have calculated that vitamin A deficiency can be eliminated worldwide by using the higher Vitamin A varieties of crops. We have the means already available and just need the will to do this. It can be achieved without fortification of foods. We have to work in a food system approach. This is reflected in the change of the name of my division in FAO, from the Division of Nutrition to Division of Nutrition and Food Systems.”
The urgency and importance of meeting the sustainable development goals (SDG) was highlighted by Dr Hameed Nuru, Representative and Country Director, World Food Programme (WFP) India. “SDG targets cannot be met globally if not met in India. Interest in non-nutritive components is also a growing area and less collected. These data include this. WFP is working with the Government of India to set up pilots and scale up successful approaches to fight hunger and malnutrition. We are at a crossroads in India now. The tools are here, the opportunities are here and the time is now,” said Dr Nuru.
Mr Ashish Bahuguna, Chair, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), discussed FSSAI’s contribution and the role of government schemes to bridge the wide nutritional gaps in India. Mr Bahuguna said, “We have fallen behind the race to reduce malnutrition. We hope not only the Government will come forward with solutions and initiatives but also that the private sector will come forward with initiatives. We want consumer awareness to be higher in regards to nutritional levels. This new data should be used to improve in this area and give a new dimension to our work to mitigate malnutrition.”
The book was released by Mr Nadda at the ‘International Symposium on Food Composition in Nutrition and Health’, organized in New Delhi on 18 January.
ICRISAT is working with NIN to apply the nutritional information on millets, sorghum and legumes to the future of scientific research for development and incorporating into the Smart Food initiative.
For more information on the Smart Food initiative click here