MUMBAI, India and NEW DELHI, Nov. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- PATH, Abbott (NYSE: ABT) and the Abbott Fund today announced a partnership to address malnutrition by advancing the rice fortification market in India. Currently, 200 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition in India, more than any other country in the world. Rice is the staple food for 65 percent of the population, providing a significant opportunity to address malnutrition through rice fortification. The partnership will seek to initially benefit 500,000 people through India's public-sector food distribution programs, with the longer-term goal of expanding the broader market for fortified rice.
To advance the partnership, the Abbott Fund has provided a three-year, $1.5 million grant for refining and scaling up the production and distribution of fortified rice using PATH's Ultra Rice® fortification technology. In addition, Abbott nutrition scientists will work with PATH to further optimize the Ultra Rice formulation in order to reduce costs and enhance the nutritional value of the grains. Abbott experts also will help PATH to develop appropriate quality assurance systems at rice miller sites to ensure production of high-quality fortified rice. PATH will simultaneously work to strengthen the local supply of fortified grains through partnerships with local industry, including Usher Agro Ltd., one of the leading rice mills in India, with whom PATH has just signed a letter of intent.
Building on earlier introduction efforts, PATH plans to expand the distribution of fortified rice within India's public-sector food programs, including the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, which serves school-aged children; the Integrated Child Development Scheme, which serves women and young children; and the Public Distribution System, which provides subsidized commodities to families below the poverty level. Each year, the Indian government provides approximately 25 million metric tons of rice to 325 million consumers through these programs.
"We are thrilled to partner with Abbott and the Abbott Fund on this very important project. With their technical and financial support, we will develop models for scaling fortified rice through rice supply chains and public-sector distribution channels that reach the most nutritionally vulnerable populations in India," said Dipika Matthias, director of PATH's Ultra Rice project.
Vivek Mohan, managing director, Abbott India, said, "Abbott is deeply committed to improving the health and well-being of people in India. Our partnership with PATH will advance one of the most cost-effective strategies for addressing micronutrient malnutrition in India. At the same time, through collaborations with local manufacturers and rice millers, this initiative will build and empower local capacity by strengthening local distribution chains."
"PATH is a pioneer in advancing culturally appropriate and cost-effective solutions to malnutrition and other critical health challenges. By sharing Abbott's technical expertise and applying the resources of the Abbott Fund, we look forward to helping PATH to expand the market for fortified rice, which holds great potential for reducing malnutrition in India and around the world," said Katherine Pickus, vice president, the Abbott Fund, and divisional vice president, Global Citizenship and Policy, Abbott.
Ultra Rice Offers Significant Opportunity to Prevent Malnutrition
Micronutrient malnutrition is characterized by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals, which can compromise children's immune systems as well as their physical and cognitive development during formative years of growth.
PATH's Ultra Rice® fortification technology is a micronutrient delivery system that packs vitamins and minerals into rice-shaped "grains" made from rice flour and manufactured using pasta-extrusion equipment. When the grains are blended with milled rice, typically at a 1:100 ratio, the resulting product is nearly identical to traditional rice in smell, taste, and texture. It is also more nutritious, offering rice-consuming populations a chance at healthier, more productive lives.
More than 30 studies in ten countries, including India, form the evidence base for PATH's Ultra Rice fortification technology and confirm that regular consumption of fortified rice helps to bridge dietary gaps, boost health, and prevent malnutrition in women and in children, for whom micronutrient deficiency exacts the greatest toll.
Goals for the Partnership
Building on PATH's prior market introduction activities in India, the partnership will catalyze the rice fortification market by:
- Increasing the overall production capacity of manufacturers of fortified grains in India. PATH will work to expand the manufacturing base of Ultra Rice in India to enhance competition, lower costs, and meet future anticipated demand for fortified rice.
- Developing low-cost quality control equipment and systems to ensure that fortified rice meets appropriate standards. To ensure that intended levels of fortification are met, PATH and Abbott scientists will collaborate with local manufacturers to create low-cost monitoring systems for rice millers in India and around the world.
- Developing high-quality, low-cost blending equipment to enable small and medium-sized rice mills to blend the fortified grains with milled rice. PATH will develop appropriate blending equipment, enabling small and medium-sized rice mills to cost-effectively blend the fortified grains into their rice supplies. Collectively, these millers serve the majority of people in India who receive their rice through India's public-sector programs.
- Expanding the introduction of fortified rice to demonstrate sustainability and scalability within India's public-sector programs. PATH will integrate fortified grains into the rice supply chains for a wide range of public sector programs in order to demonstrate feasibility and build the case for expanded distribution.
- Optimizing the Ultra Rice formulation to lower production costs. Abbott and PATH will advance product optimization research, with the goal of decreasing manufacturing costs, enhancing nutritional value, and maximizing affordability for public-sector buyers.
PATH's Ultra Rice technology
Journal of Nutrition article on Ultra Rice and iron
PATH is an international nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH's work improves global health and well-being. For more information, please visit www.path.org.
About Abbott and the Abbott Fund
Abbott is a global, broad-based health care company devoted to the discovery, development, manufacture, and marketing of pharmaceuticals and medical products, including nutritionals, devices, and diagnostics. The company employs nearly 90,000 people and markets its products in more than 130 countries. In India, Abbott currently employs more than 12,000 people, with headquarters in Mumbai and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in Goa and Baddi. The Abbott Fund is a philanthropic foundation established by Abbott in 1951. The Abbott Fund's mission is to create healthier global communities by investing in creative ideas that promote science, expand access to health care, and strengthen communities worldwide. For more information on Abbott or the Abbott Fund, visit www.abbott.com or www.abbottfund.org.
About Usher Agro Ltd.
Usher Agro Ltd. is an agri-food company engaged in the milling and processing of rice and wheat products in northern India. The company offers raw rice, parboiled/steamed rice, brown rice, husk, R-Atta, rawa, suji, chakki Atta, wheat flour, and bran products under the Rasoi Raaja brand name. In addition to a robust domestic market, the company exports its products to the United Kingdom, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran, and Kuwait. Founded in 1996 and based in Mumbai, India, the company trades under the ticker USHER.BO and is publicly listed on the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. and the Stock Exchange, Mumbai. For more information on Usher Agro Ltd., visit www.usheragro.com.