No onion, garlic controversy: Institutes shut critics

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The report was sought following a complaint by a group of activists against the foundation for not using onion and garlic in the mid-day meal, that is served to students in government schools.

The mid-day meal section in the Department of Public Instruction had sought a report from the Certified Insurance Service Representative - Central Food Technological Research Institute (CISR-CFTRI) and the Indian Council for Medical Research’s National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).  

Reports, submitted to the government state, revealed that the nutritional needs specified for mid-day meal have been satisfied by the Akshaya Patra Foundation.

CISR-CFTRI has approved of the alternatives listed as a substitute for onion and garlic.

“The ingredients listed (turmeric, drumstick, lime, GLV, jeera etc) are known for enhancing the bioaccessibility of micronutrients. These are not only an excellent promoter of bioavailability, but also provider of nutrients. Acidulants which provide organic acids such as citric acid, ascorbic acid, maleic acid are the best enhancers of bioaccessibility,” the report reads.

Over 4.5 lakh students across the state are being provided with the mid-day meals on a daily basis by the Foundation.

Meanwhile, a report submitted by Dr Hemalatha R from the ICMR reads, “The nutritive values of menus certainly meet and often exceed the energy and protein requirements prescribed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for mid-day meals.”

The reports are also in support of the safety standards maintained by the Foundation while preparing food. ICMR also said that the recipes are inspired by local food habits.

Siddarth Joshi, an independent researcher said, “There was no standard in what NGOs were supplying and hence, the state decided to have one. This specifies the inclusion of onion in sambar.”

He also claimed that the National Institute of Nutrition did no detailed study. “You cannot sit in a room and say that the food is tasty without meeting children and doing a ground check. Also, it is important to visit schools to see whether it is hygienic. There is no mention of the extent of vegetables used.”

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