Manufactured “Grain” Makes Every Bite Count
PATH has developed Ultra Rice®—a culturally appropriate and cost effective rice fortification technology. Vitamins and minerals are packed into reconstituted rice grains which are manufactured with pasta-making equipment. These grains are designed to withstand rinsing and soaking, common rice preparation practices in the developing world. When blended with milled rice, typically at a 1:100 ratio, the resulting fortified rice is identical to traditional rice in taste and appearance. Ultra Rice® can carry a range of micronutrients, including Vitamin A, iron, zinc, thiamin, and folic acid among others, delivering up to half the recommended daily intake in a single serving of rice..
Good nutrition is fundamental to the health and development of strong families and communities. Yet in many developing countries, malnutrition stunts physical and cognitive development, weakens immune systems, and dramatically reduces productivity. Billions of people worldwide suffer from micronutrient deficiencies—a “hidden hunger” characterized by a lack of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, Vitamin A, and folic acid which are essential for growth and survival..
Every year, iron deficiency—the most common and preventable nutritional deficiency—saps the energy and learning capacity of nearly 2 billion people and leads to more than 60,000 maternal deaths. Vitamin A and zinc deficiencies contribute to 2 to 3 million deaths in children annually. Deficits of thiamin, iron, and other micronutrients in pregnant women retard the intrauterine growth of their babies, leading to high rates of neonatal mortality. And a lack of folic acid during the first critical days of pregnancy causes more than 200,000 severe birth defects worldwide. .
Fortification of staple foods is considered by many global health experts to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for addressing micronutrient malnutrition and is a well-established practice in many developed countries for staples such as flour, milk, oil, and salt. Rice is the main staple food for almost half of the world’s population and is therefore an excellent fortification vehicle. Yet technologies for fortifying rice have been more challenging to develop. .
PATH is an international nonprofit organization that addresses global health through innovation. One such innovation is Ultra Rice®, a technology for fortifying rice, which provides consumers with critical nutrients from the food they already eat without changing their buying and cooking habits. PATH’s Ultra Rice fortification technology manufactures fortified grains made from rice flour using pasta-making equipment. When blended with traditionally milled rice and cooked as usual, the look and taste are nearly indistinguishable from white rice..
Since 1997, PATH has worked to refine the technology, originally developed by Bon Dente International Inc., by modifying the formulation and production process. Ultra Rice technology is a cost-effective way to fight malnutrition, delivering up to half the recommended daily intake of iron, folic acid, thiamin, and zinc in a single serving of rice..
Ultra Rice is distinct from other fortified rice technologies, such as spraying or dusting, because the micronutrients are packed inside the grains, and are less vulnerable to nutrient loss when rinsed, soaked, or fried during preparation. More than 30 studies in ten countries show that regular consumption of rice fortified with Ultra Rice technology helps bridge dietary gaps, boost health, and prevent malnutrition..
In Brazil, fortified rice in school lunch programs collectively reach about 65,000 schoolchildren daily, at a cost of less than US$0.50 per child per school year. PATH now is working with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to distribute fortified rice through commercial retail channels in Brazil, providing technical support to the entire value chain from pasta manufacturers to rice millers, distributors, and commercial retailers. Additionally, to enhance demand, PATH and GAIN will soon launch a social marketing effort to reach low-resource consumers. In India, rice fortified with the Ultra Rice technology was introduced through the publicly funded Mid-Day Meal Scheme, feeding more than 60,000 schoolchildren daily. PATH now is working under funding from the Abbott Fund as well as with scientific staff from Abbott Laboratories on scale-up efforts..
In Burundi, PATH, in partnership with World Vision, will soon distribute fortified rice to approximately 15,000 children daily through a school meal program supported by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The project will expand the evidence base, which could eventually lead to the inclusion of fortified rice on the approved commodity lists of the US government and WFP. .
Finally, PATH is currently developing an affordable small-scale blender that will enable community rice mills to blend fortified grains with traditional rice. The vision is for local rice millers to purchase these low-cost machines and charge a small amount for the fortification service, building the capacity of local rice millers and increasing access to fortified rice in rural communities..
- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
- Federal University of Vicosa
- US Department of Agriculture
- World Vision
- Abbott Laboratories
- Abbott Fund
The IP Strategy
Bon Dente International Inc. pioneered Ultra Rice technology in 1989 and donated the patent rights to PATH in 1997. To reach nutritionally vulnerable populations, PATH licenses the Ultra Rice technology to select commercial partners. Thus far, we have licensed the technology to manufacturers in Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and India. PATH provides a royalty-free license to the technology and offers technical assistance to establish production and validate product quality. In exchange, the licensee agrees to limit profit margins to ensure the product is affordable to those who most need it. For our partners, the potential for expanding their market share among lower/middle-income consumers represents a significant business opportunity, which offsets a lower profit margin. .
PATH has also developed Regional Technology Transfer Centers (RTTC) to help license the Ultra Rice technology to additional manufacturers and provide technical support to rice millers, in an effort to expand the local supply chain for fortified rice. Our RTTC in Brazil, in particular, may also facilitate future transfers of the technology to 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..
Ultra Rice is a registered US trademark of Bon Dente International, Inc.
PATH is an international nonprofit organization that transforms global health through innovation. Our mission is to improve the health of people around the world by advancing technologies, strengthening systems, and encouraging healthy behaviors. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, PATH has more than 1,100 staff members and offices in 24 countries.
Case study authored by: PATH