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FSSAI restricts use of Heme Iron in food, officers to keep strict vigilance
Wednesday, 07 June, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Shraddha Joshi, Mumbai
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), in its recent notice, has issued direction regarding the restriction on use of Heme Iron as a source of Iron (Fe). FSSAI have directed all food safety commissioners of states and union territories to keep strict vigilance and enforce it on the same.
 
Under the Food Safety and Standard Act, Iron is permitted in various standards as an ingredients in food/ food ingredients with or without the source. The direction stated, “It is to clarify that Heme Iron shall not be used as a source of Iron(Fe) in any form in any article of food.”
 
Explaining about Heme iron and differentiating between the heme and non heme iron, Dr Rashmi A Kolhe, director, D'Armonia Consulting, said, “Heme iron is typically found in blood and muscle. Hemes are most commonly recognised as components of hemoglobin, the red pigment in blood, but are also found in a number of other biologically important hemoproteins such as myoglobin, cytochrome, catalase, heme peroxidase and endothelial Nitric oxide synthase, while, non heme iron comes primarily from the plant. Non-heme iron represents the majority of iron humans consume in their diets and is the type of iron present in most supplements. Non-heme type of iron is found in good quantities in unrefined grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, most iron pills, fortified foods, or contaminant iron such as from water, soil or cooking utensils.”
 
She further adds, “Absorption is the major challenge with iron. Many food ingredients hinder the absorption of iron in our digestive system. Iron absorption can be enhanced by combining it with catalysts e.g. Vitamin C. Promotion of food fortification by FSSAI has the same objective to provide the essential nutrients like iron, calcium (in which majority of Indian population is deficient) in safe form.”
 
Vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and iron fortified foods are great sources for non heme iron.
 
Welcoming the move Khole informs, “Main motto of FSSAI is to provide safe and nutritious food to our population. The nutritional dimension to this use of non heme iron is to promote the fortification of food with use of non heme iron and increase availability to vegetarian population in India where isolated iron deficiency associated with poor diet, malabsorptive disorders, and blood loss can be avoided. In India, iron deficiency often results from enteropathies and blood loss associated with gastrointestinal parasites.”
 
“This is in line with FAO strategy, to resolve the micro nutrient deficiency problems of developing countries through increasing the consumption of an adequate and varied diet, use of supplements and fortification strategies,” she added.
 
She further added, “In case of heme iron, apart from being animal source, research suggests that it may increase the risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome under specific conditions like oxidative stress. There is an association between high intake of heme iron sourced from meat and increased risk of colon cancer.”
 
Welcoming the move, Ashwin Bhadri, CEO Equinox Labs, says, “This move by FSSAI is a well thought and carefully devised one. Hardly people know this difference and consider iron in any amount and any kind good. This move will cater to people who suffer from iron overload and may or may not be aware of the same. Plus, this will help prevent haemochromatosis and related disorders in people who may be at the risk and also those consuming non-vegetarian diet on a higher scale.”
 
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