Fortifying rice is a way to help improve nutrition and one scientist steps up to the plate to use low-value broken grains to become iron-rich meals for Filipinos.

Dr. Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa has a dream to make healthy, nutritious food more accessible to the public. Fueled by this dream, she turned to broken grains, often considered of low value after rice milling, to produce iron premix rice (IPR) and the results are promising.

To understand the drive of the Filipino scientist, it is essential to know the roots of the country’s problem on malnutrition.

The high prevalence of malnutrition in the country is still a problem that can directly impact the quality of life of children and mothers, according to the 2013 National Nutrition Survey. An undernourished population has lower productivity, owing to poor performance and poor attendance of kids in school as well as abortions in pregnant women, which can lead to deaths.

Filipinos eat 4 to 5 cups of cooked rice per day so it makes a good vehicle for fortification to deliver essential nutrients such as iron to anemic Filipinos.

“Fortifying food by adding essential nutrients to staple foods such as rice and providing access to affordable, healthier food can bridge this nutrition gap”, says Dr. Angeles-Agdeppa.


Homegrown technology

Using extrusion technology, broken grains are enriched with iron and are transformed into whole grain rice that benefits both the consumer and the rice producers or millers.

The IPR is made from rice flour blended with iron fortificant in the form of micronized dispersible ferric pyrophosphate.

FNRI developed IPR made from rice flour blended with iron (micronized dispersible ferric pyrophosphate as fortificant) using hot extrusion technology which proved to be stable.

During milling, the average yield of whole grain is 60 percent. The remaining 40 percent are broken rice, which traditionally are used as animal feeds and fetch low prices at 27 pesos a kilo.

Using the technology developedby Dr. Angeles-Agdeppa together with the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), the broken rice grains converted into IPR sells at 198 pesos a kilo.

“The production of IPR using broken rice grains can translate into more profits for rice millers in the country, says Dr. Angeles-Agdeppa”.

Cost of production of the premix is at 128 pesos a kilo, so this means a producer can have a profit of 73 pesos per kilo. This amount us about 43 pesos more than the cost of selling the unprocessed broken grains at 27 pesos a kilo.

The IPR addresses the previous lack of the country’s capability to produce its own iron-fortified rice.

Between 2000 and 2010, the country has been importing IPR fortified with ferrous sulfate using coating technology from the United States. The rice is distributed to targeted areas as part of the Food for Schools program, by the National Food Authority, the lead agency implementing Republic Act 8976 or the Philippine Food Fortification Act of 2000. The law mandated the fortification of staple foods such as rice.


A healthy choice for consumers

Based of FNRI studies, IPR made from rice mixed with the iron fortification using hot extrusion technology has a shelf life of 12 months, with the high iron content retained.

Based on a study in Pasig, feeding the iron pre-mix rice significantly cut anemia prevalence among school children from 100 percent to 33 percent. In terms of taste and acceptability, the people who ate the cooked iron premix rice said they like it “moderately to very much”. During a market research in Bataan and Zambales provinces, the IPR can be sold alongside bins of unfortified rice and can be marketed under normal conditions by licensed dealers.


Scaling up

Promising results from pilot implementation of FNRI’s IPR project resulted in a funding from the DOST Technology Improvement and Commercialization Program (TECHNICOM) for its scale up and technology transfer to local millers in Region 11 in 2013, which was followed by partnerships with the local government.

Afterwards, a series of talks with private millers and investors to produce the IPR to supply different parts of the country followed. The DOST through SETUP provided technical assistance to early adopters including investor-millers of General Santos City, Loronix Rice Mill of Compostela Valley, Bagayas Rice Mill in Davao Oriental; Damasco Palay – BUY and SELL and Damasco Rice Mill in Compostela Valley.

Partnering with local government is another intervention that helped scale up the project through the support of governors from Compostela Valley, Mati and Tagum. A provincial ordinance mandated the sale of iron premix rice in dealerships and outlets, including its use on food establishments. This curbed the anemia rate from 100 percent to 14 percent after the end of the study, showing the high impact of the program.

From Dr. Angeles-Agdeppa’s example, combating hunger and malnutrition is possible by recognizing possibilities from using locally available materials such as broken rice grains. She hopes that by making the iron premix rice more accessible to the public, it can result to a healthier, more productive Filipino nation.


Written by:
Dr. Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa

Published by:
Department of Science and Technology - Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII