Contacts: Amy Wales, PATH, +1.206.302.4689, firstname.lastname@example.org; Karie Atkinson, GAIN, +41.22.749.1783, email@example.com.
Seattle and Geneva, July 5, 2011—PATH and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) today announce an unprecedented partnership to strengthen rice fortification efforts in Brazil using PATH’s Ultra Rice® fortification technology, a micronutrient delivery system that packs vitamins and minerals into grains made from rice flour and manufactured with pasta-making equipment. Jointly funded by GAIN and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the partnership will leverage the considerable experience of PATH and GAIN in advancing fortified foods for improved nutrition. The work will focus on reaching millions of nutritionally vulnerable consumers in Brazil and establishing a replicable model for scale-up through commercial channels globally.
Rice fortification, an effective technology solution
Despite Brazil’s booming economic growth, malnutrition remains a persistent problem. Pockets of severe poverty in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and the less developed regions in the Northeast and Amazonia, combined with an alarming rise in malnutrition related to obesity, suggest a pervasive need for broad and effective solutions for ensuring the delivery of essential micronutrients to consumers.
Fortification of staple foods is considered to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for addressing micronutrient malnutrition, a hidden hunger 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. More than 30 studies in ten countries, including Brazil, form the evidence base for PATH’s fortification technology—confirming that regular consumption of rice fortified with Ultra Rice grains, typically at a 1:100 blend ratio, helps to bridge dietary gaps, boost health, and prevent malnutrition in women and children, for whom micronutrient deficiency exacts the greatest toll.
“GAIN is dedicated to advancing fortified foods through commercial markets to improve the health and nutrition of populations at risk. We believe that PATH’s cost-effective, culturally appropriate Ultra Rice technology is poised for entry into these markets and we are honored to support its advancement in Brazil as part of our larger effort to solve the intractable problem of micronutrient malnutrition globally,” said Regina Moench-Pfanner, senior director of Nutrition Programs at GAIN.
Expanding supply and demand in Brazil
Building on PATH’s early market introduction work in Brazil, PATH and GAIN will continue to bolster the local supply chain—providing technical support to pasta manufacturers, rice millers, rice wholesalers/distributors, and commercial retailers interested in incorporating affordable fortified rice products into their business operations.
To enhance consumer demand for fortified rice in Brazil, PATH and GAIN will target its social marketing efforts to commercial retail channels that reach low-resource consumers. PATH and GAIN will also expand distribution of Ultra Rice in Brazil through public sector meal programs. Select municipalities in Mato Grosso do Sul, São Paulo, and Ceará already serve rice fortified with Ultra Rice grains in school lunches that collectively reach 65,000 schoolchildren daily. To ensure sustainability, PATH and GAIN will continue to foster state and national fortification alliances dedicated to cultivating political support for favorable policies like mandates or incentives that will help to pull additional players into the market.
“Brazil is an ideal market for PATH and GAIN to develop a model for scaling up access to fortified rice through commercial channels. With large pockets of malnutrition, a relatively concentrated rice milling industry which enhances the feasibility of fortification, an extensive network of distributors and retailers that reach lower income consumers, and reasonably high rates of rice consumption in both urban and rural areas, we are confident that we can make a sustainable public health impact,” said Dipika Matthias, director of PATH’s Ultra Rice project.
Fostering sustainability and replication
To further expand the supply base, PATH will establish a technical center of excellence at the Federal University of Viçosa in Minas Gerais. As part of the University’s Hunger Center, which is supported by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the center will facilitate future transfers of the Ultra Rice technology to domestic and international manufacturers—including those in Africa—modeling a strategic approach to advancing economic development, food security, and improved nutrition for vulnerable populations across the globe.
In addition to partnership activities being advanced in Brazil, PATH and GAIN are driving the development of the international Rice Fortification Resource Group (RiFoRG), a cross-sector consortium of stakeholders committed to catalyzing rice fortification efforts globally. Key lessons learned in Brazil will be shared with the RiFoRG and also placed in the public domain through the RiFoRG website (www.gainhealth.org/riforg), offering a model for global replication.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is an alliance driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition. GAIN supports public-private partnerships to increase access to the missing nutrients in diets necessary for people, communities and economies to be stronger and healthier. An estimated 400 million people most at risk of malnutrition are benefitting from sustained and affordable nutritious foods in more than 25 countries. GAIN’s project portfolio is growing and its goal is to reach one billion people. Created in 2002 at a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children, GAIN is a Swiss foundation headquartered in Geneva with a special international status granted by the Swiss government. Its worldwide presence includes an office in Washington D.C. as well as regional and country representatives across Asia and Africa. For more information about GAIN, please visit www.gainhealth.org.
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.