PATH, WFP, and IRD partner to enhance food assistance, address malnutrition in Cambodia

October 10, 2012 by PATH

Partnership will deepen the evidence base for rice fortification

Corwyn Ellison, PATH, +1.206.302.6061,
Insa Deimann, World Food Programme, +855.23.212.137,
Cristelle Duos, IRD, + 33 (0),

Phnom Penh and Seattle, October 10, 2012—PATH, the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) announced today a three-way partnership to test the impact of fortifying the rice distributed through food assistance programs in Cambodia using PATH’s Ultra Rice® fortification technology, a means for bridging micronutrient deficiencies and preventing malnutrition in rice-consuming communities. With a $2.7 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS), awarded through the USDA-FAS Micronutrient-Fortified Food Aid Products Pilot Program and funded by the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition (McGovern-Dole) Program, the partnership will deepen the evidence base for rice fortification and the Ultra Rice technology, thus demonstrating it as a key method for improving the nutritional quality of food assistance commodities that many Cambodian children receive daily with their school meal.

Specific activities under the USDA-FAS grant will include developing and testing an improved Ultra Rice formulation with enhanced nutrient value as well as improved grain appearance and performance, ensuring that end consumers in Cambodia and elsewhere receive the fortified grain’s full nutritional benefit. PATH will also explore alternative raw material inputs to reduce associated production costs and enhance global access to the technology.

“Malnutrition is a significant public health issue in Cambodia and throughout the world," said Dipika Matthias, director of PATH’s Ultra Rice project. "PATH is pleased to partner with WFP and IRD to test the impact of an enhanced Ultra Rice technology within Cambodia’s food aid environment. We aim to improve the nutritional value of food assistance in one of the highest-rice-consuming regions of the world. Through this project, we hope to model the way forward for other food assistance partners globally, thus extending the benefits of rice fortification to some of the world’s most nutritionally vulnerable populations.”

Expanding rice fortification’s reach

Cambodia is among 36 countries globally with the highest rates of child undernutrition (Black 2008). A recent government survey classified 40 percent of children under the age of five as chronically malnourished (stunted), 29 percent as underweight, and 11 percent as acutely malnourished (wasted). Rice is the main staple food for Cambodians, accounting for up to 70 percent of the rural population’s daily calorie intake and resulting in one of the highest per capita rice consumption rates in the world. Widespread consumption of fortified rice could have a large, positive nutritional impact in the country.

PATH’s Ultra Rice technology is a cost-effective micronutrient delivery system that packs vitamins and minerals into rice-shaped “grains” made from rice flour and manufactured using pasta-making equipment. When these fortified grains are blended with milled rice, the resulting fortified rice is nearly identical to traditional rice in smell, taste, and texture. The evidence base for the Ultra Rice technology includes 30 clinical and operational research studies. Rigorous efficacy, stability, safety, and consumer-acceptance studies—including a 2010 consumer acceptability study conducted by PATH, WFP, and IRD in Cambodia—demonstrating fortified rice as an effective tool for reducing malnutrition among rice consuming populations.

Enhancing its nutritional impact

The current Ultra Rice formulation delivers a multi-micronutrient combination of iron, zinc, vitamin B1 (thiamin), and folic acid. With pro-bono support from nutritional scientists at the health care company Abbott, PATH aims to improve the Ultra Rice formulation by enhancing the bioavailablity of iron in the grain, widening its nutrient content to address other micronutrient deficiencies, including vitamin A, and reducing costs by replacing or eliminating other ingredients. In addition, Abbott and PATH will work in collaboration with the Department of Grain Science and Industry at Kansas State University’s Extrusion Lab and the Northern Crops Institute at North Dakota State University to improve the strength, performance, and appearance of the fortified grain using different types of manufacturing equipment. These efforts will enhance the value of the Ultra Rice technology for humanitarian and development programs, and boost consumer use and acceptability under a variety of cooking and preparation conditions.

Micronutrient enriched grains made using either the original or improved Ultra Rice formulation are easily blended with traditional rice with minimal capital investment and training of personnel. Once the resulting fortified rice commodity is labeled as such by the rice miller or by warehouse staff (in the case of in-country warehouse-based blending), it is treated no differently than traditional rice, assuring routine consumption and nutritional benefits.

Modeling impact in the context of food aid and beyond

In partnership with WFP and IRD, PATH will demonstrate the impact of the improved fortified rice product by introducing it into WFP’s large-scale school meals programme in Cambodia for a period of one school year (ten months), with funding from the USDA-FAS McGovern-Dole Program. The study will be conducted in participating primary schools with more than 4,000 schoolchildren daily, the largest impact study of Ultra Rice to date. With its extensive research experience, IRD will spearhead nutritional, health, and cognitive impact evaluations throughout the course of the pilot—working with PATH and WFP to document the effect a fortified rice product can have in the context of food assistance and beyond.

About the World Food Programme (WFP)

The World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. WFP is part of the United Nations system and is voluntarily funded. Established in 1961, WFP pursues a vision of the world in which every man, woman, and child has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life. Every year, on average, WFP feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries. WFP has operated in Cambodia since 1979. For more information, please visit

About Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)

Institut de Recherche pour le Développement is a French public research institute working for the development of countries in the global South. The Institute has had a role in managing research, consultancy, and capacity-building activities in low- and middle-income countries for over 60 years. IRD conducts research on malnutrition on Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. All research and technical staff have extensive experience in malnutrition in developing countries, especially in the field of micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity, and nutritional intervention strategies and programs, with over 15 years of research collaboration on micronutrients with Southeast Asian countries. For more information, please visit


Black RE, Allen LH, Bhutta ZA, et al. (2008) Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences. The Lancet. 371, 243-260.

Ultra Rice is a registered US trademark of Bon Dente International, Inc.