Pulse crops provide dietary Fe, Zn and protein, but bioavailability of micronutrients is low. Using iron fortificants to increase bioavailable Fe in lentils and chickpeas may fulfil a major proportion of Fe requirements in deficient populations.
We sprayed 1600 ppm NaFeEDTA solution to lentil and chickpea dal. We measured its Fe absorption in vitro using the Caco-2 cell culture model. We tested sensory acceptability of fortified dal by consumers.
Application of the NaFeEDTA solution provided ~8 mg of additional Fe in 50 g of uncooked lentil dal, equivalent to typical daily consumption. Use of fortified chickpea dal in prepared food products showed similar total Fe increases in uncooked and cooked food. In vitro trials showed dal fortification increased total Fe uptake. In vitro tests of availability of Fe in fortified chickpea products is underway. A 9-point-scale hedonic sensory evaluation of appearance, color (raw and cooked) and taste (cooked) in traditional recipes showed that Fe-fortified lentil and chickpea dal was acceptable to consumers.
A major part of Fe requirements can be supplied by lentil and chickpea dal fortification, without changing acceptance or cost. Our results led to design of a series of independent trials to test efficacy and effectiveness in human subjects in regions where consumption of lentil and chickpea dal coincides with Fe deficiency. Given that this fortification process is technically feasible at the industrial level, once proven efficacious, application of this technique can be scaled to have impact on improving iron intake where lentils and chickpeas are consumed.