Saturday, 28 June 2008

Ultra rice: Grains that heal come to India


June 28, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 27: Now it's rice that heals. Ultra rice, the artificial rice grains that worked wonders in Brazil, Columbia and China, will soon make its way into the Indian market.
Developed by internationally-renowned research and service organisation, PATH, Ultra rice looks and tastes just like the ordinary rice. But it contains special elements that will check anaemia and vitamin A and zinc deficiencies.
Ultra rice, when mixed with ordinary rice in the ratio 1:100, brings down maternal mortality rate during childbirth and blindness in young children, besides providing the much-needed micronutrients to people.
"We will soon introduce Ultra rice in the Indian market. We have already transferred the technology to a firm in West Bengal. Soon we will provide the technology to a government agency too. Micronutrient deficiencies threaten the health of people, particularly young mothers and children. Ultra rice will be the best nutrient substitute in the mid-day meal scheme," Michael Joseph, PATH's food technologist, told this correspondent.
Those using Ultra rice need not change their cooking habits. "When blended with rice and cooked like usual, the Ultra rice looks so much like white rice, it’s hard to differentiate," he points out.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition has proposed to fund a large-scale trial that will provide schoolchildren with fortified rice through the midday meal programme in the country. The department of biotechnology, Government of India, has already approved Ultra rice and declared it as safe for human consumption.
Studies by the city-based National Institute of Nutrition have found the taste
of Ultra rice was acceptable or good for 86 per cent of schoolchildren. As much as 98per cent of the iron was retained, even after the rice was rinsed multiple times before cooking.
Ultra rice resembles natural milled rice grains in size, shape, and colour, but
they are made from rice flour, selected micronutrients, and nutrient-protecting ingredients that are combined and extruded through a rice-shaped mold. When the Ultra rice grains are blended with white rice the result is nearly identical to unfortified rice in smell, taste, and texture.
Ultra rice is presently available in two formulations, one fortified with vitamin A, and the other carrying iron, thiamine, folic acid, and zinc.

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