Launched by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the initiative covers 15 IEM conditions for which the required diets are unavailable in India.
The imported diets, which will fall under the FSMP (Food for Special Medical Purposes) category, spell good news for children with IEM, as those born with the condition are unlikely to live past infancy without special diets.
Start them young
This comes several months after a pilot programme funded by the Health Ministry was started at a hospital in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, to screen newborns for IEM, which is brought about by a single gene defect that causes abnormalities in carbohydrate, fat and protein synthesis.
Approximately 30,000 children in India are believed to suffer from IEM, but the country's lack of proper screening equipment and facilities means the actual number could be much greater.
Hence, the aim of the Vellore programme is to determine the exact extent of IEM in India, so as to increase patients' quality of life and reduce their mortality risk through early intervention.
Under Diet4Life, blood samples will be taken 72 hours after birth, which a Health Ministry official said "will help start treatment early and provide interventional treatment".
An FSSAI senior official told The Pioneer that Diet4Life is a joint project by the FSSAI, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), Indian Dietetic Association (IDA), Indian Society for Inborn Errors of Metabolism (ISIEM), Metabolic Errors and Rare Diseases Organisation of India (MERD), and India's Health Ministry.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Indian Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ISPGHAN), Infant and Young Nutrition Council (IYNCI), and National Neonatalogy Forum (NNF) serve as stakeholders in the initiative.