Micronutrient deficiencies are prevalent in Nepal where starchy foods constitute a large proportion of diets and consumption of micronutrient-rich foods is inadequate. We conducted a study to determine whether rice would be an appropriate vehicle for micronutrient fortification in Nepal.
In Bajura in remote rural Nepal, we conducted a household survey to characterize rice intakes in 195 households, and a double-blinded acceptability test with 177 social safety net rice consumers ≥18 years of age. Of these, 168 tasted fortified and unfortified rice to assess whether respondents could differentiate between fortified and non-fortified rice and their sensory properties. Rice was fortified by blending hot extruded kernels containing 6 micronutrients together with non-fortified rice at a 1:99 ratio. We used binomial tests to assess whether participants could correctly differentiate fortified rice, from non-fortified rice and paired t-tests to compare scores for sensory qualities of cooked fortified and non-fortified rice. We used multiple regression to test associations between per capita consumption and age, gender, wealth and food security.
Per capita consumption of rice (median 216g/day, IQR 144.0, 288.0) did not vary by wealth but was +52.08g, (95% CI 10.43, 93.72) higher amongst moderately to severely food insecure households compared with food secure / mildly food insecure. Most respondents could not differentiate fortified rice from non-fortified rice: 37.5% identified uncooked fortified rice and 39.3% cooked rice, which was not different from the 33% expected by chance ( p = 0.22 and p = 0.09 respectively). The sensory qualities of fortified rice were acceptable (scoring 3.9 out of 5) and did not differ from non-fortified rice ( p>0.05).