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Field-Suitable rapid test documented for


rice fortification

by Sarah Zimmermann, Food Fortification Initiative

is also fortified, FFI recommends using the rice procedure that


wo rapid qualitative procedures to
results in dark red kernels. This test uses the same chemicals
detect iron-fortified rice kernels have
that are used for a qualitative test for fortified wheat flour. If a
been validated and documented for use
in non-laboratory settings. For example, country requires fortification of both wheat flour and rice, then
the regulatory monitoring staff will be able to use the same
customs inspectors can use either of
chemicals.
these procedures to test rice imports
For the research, FFI received fortified rice kernels from five
without holding cargo while waiting
producers. These kernels were blended with unfortified rice
for lab results. Regulatory monitoring
produced in the United States to create fortified rice. The two
personnel can also use these techniques
tests that were found suitable for field use were successful with
with domestically produced fortified rice.
fortified kernels made via hot extrusion, warm extrusion, and
The newly documented procedures are simple tools that
coating.
can be used regardless of how the fortified rice kernels are
Fortified rice is a blend of fortified and unfortified kernels.
produced. They do not require complicated equipment or precise
The blend ratio is usually one fortified kernel per 100 or 200
measurements. The chemicals can be stored safely and used
unfortified kernels. Rice can also be fortified by dusting a vitamin
without the need for hazardous waste disposal systems.
and mineral powder on all of the milled rice. However, the
Companies that produce fortified rice kernels have used a rapid,
nutrients are easily washed off, and dusting is not recommended
qualitative procedure for internal quality control and quality
in countries where people usually wash rice before cooking.
assurance for some time. However these testing techniques were
Another consideration in this research was cost. The procedures
often developed for the companys specific product or were not
do not require special equipment, so the main cost is purchasing
intended for non-laboratory settings.
the required chemicals. The supply of hydrochloric acid and
From these existing methods, the Food Fortification Initiative
potassium thiocyanate for this project cost US$ 433 and
(FFI) identified two procedures that are suitable for non-laboratory
amounted to US$ 0.02 per test.
settings. Both rely on chemical reactions with iron to change
FFI also evaluated the procedures for safety and simplicity.
the color of the iron-fortified kernels. FFI successfully used one
Researchers scored each potential procedure for the safety of
procedure in a regulatory monitoring training workshop in the
the required chemicals, ease of obtaining the chemicals, and
Solomon Islands in August 2015 and demonstrated it during the
the amount of expertise required to conduct the procedures.
Global Summit on Food Fortification in September 2015.
Hydrochloric acid, usually a dangerous chemical, is used in both
The field-use versions of both procedures take less than five
minutes. Costs and safety
considerations are equitable
The two newly documented rapid procedures for rice fortification depend on a chemical
for both. One uses diluted
reaction with iron in fortified kernels. One procedure makes the fortified kernels dark red;
hydrochloric acid and
the other makes the fortified kernels dark blue.
potassium thiocyanate and
turns iron-fortified kernels
red. The other uses diluted
hydrochloric acid and
potassium fericyanide or
ferrocyanide and turns ironfortified kernels dark blue.
In countries where flour

48 | November 2015 - Milling and Grain

F
the red and blue assays, but only in a very diluted form.
Those rapid tests do not provide an analysis of the amount of
iron or identify the type of iron in the fortified kernel. They also
do not indicate whether other nutrients are in the fortified kernels.
In a strong regulatory monitoring system, fortified rice samples
are periodically sent to external laboratories for comprehensive
analysis to ensure that the product complies with the countrys
fortification standard.
Yet rapid tests are an important part of a countrys grain
fortification monitoring system. When used consistently, they
will provide an early indicator of problems that may need to
be corrected. This helps ensure that rice fortification has the
expected health impact. Grains are most commonly fortified with
iron to prevent debilitating anemia from iron deficiency. They are
also regularly fortified with folic acid to prevent severe neural
tube birth defects such as spina bifida.
Rice fortification is considered economically feasible in
countries where people consume at least 100 grams of rice per
person per day. It is most easily implemented in modern mills
with a production capacity of at least five metric tons an hour.
If commercial distribution systems for rice in a country are too
small-scale, rice can also be fortified in other large distribution
channels, such as government programs.
One reason that fortification is successful is that it does not
require consumers to change their behavior. The foods they
already enjoy eating are simply more nutritious.
On the other hand, successful fortification programs require
behavior changes by the monitoring staff responsible for ensuring
food processors follow national regulations. They need to apply
quality control measures routinely, analyze results, and correct
problems. This field-suitable rapid procedure for rice fortification

Becky Tsang, center, Food Fortification Initiative Technical Officer


for Asia, demonstrated one of the newly documented rapid tests
for fortified rice kernels at a Global Summit on Food Fortification
in Tanzania in September 2015.

is a new tool to help them be successful.


To stay informed about developments, join the rice fortification
resource-sharing platform by sending an e-mail to Becky Tsang,
FFI Technical Officer for Asia, atbecky.tsang@ffinetwork.org.
Funding was provided by the Australia Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Solomon Islands as part of its
support for wheat flour and rice fortification there.
Acknowledgements: Research Products and Wright Enrichment
provided the chemicals and laboratory space for conducting the
research. Jeff Gwirtz from JAG Services consulted with FFI on
this work.

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