IDRC congratulates Levente Diosady, an IDRC-supported researcher and a University of Toronto professor who was named an officer to the Order of Canada.
Diosady was honoured “for his contributions to the science of food engineering, which has improved the lives of millions of people around the world.” He is widely recognized for his work on micronutrients — vitamins and minerals that are needed in small but regular amounts to ensure proper development and good health. His best-known achievement is the creation of nutrient-enriched double-fortified salt (DFS).
Iron deficiency is the most widespread form of malnutrition and afflicts nearly 2 billion people globally. In many developing countries, severe iodine and iron deficiencies compromise the health and cognitive skills of women and can cause mental impairment in newborns. In India, iron deficiency is to blame for more than 200,000 maternal deaths each year. The rates of anemia in the country are also staggering, with 53% of women aged 15-49 and 58% of children aged 6-49 months suffering from the condition.
Following two decades of research in Canada, a cost-effective and sustainable way to reduce iron deficiency and anemia was developed by scientists. The process involves double fortifying iodized salt — consumed daily by 80% of India’s population — with iron, which combats anemia. Diosady was a lead researcher on the project, “Scaling up the production and distribution of double-fortified salt in India” through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, a CA$124.5 million initiative jointly funded by IDRC and Global Affairs Canada. Researchers from the University of Toronto and St. John’s Research Institute in India developed a commercial facility to produce DFS, new technical standards for DFS production, and a technology that uses microencapsulation to produce the iron premix for DFS.
DFS will now be included in school meal programs provided to more than five million children in Tamil Nadu. In addition, leading salt producers have built the capacity of their facilities to manufacture DFS at scale, reaching more than 50 million people.