Enriched rice is white rice which has been mixed with an assortment of vitamins and nutrients to make it more nutritious. Many companies make this product, and the packaging usually clearly indicates the level of enrichment in the grain, although those levels may vary after cooking, depending on how the rice is cooked.
When rice is processed into white rice, a great deal of the nutritional value is lost. The fiber and nutrient rich outer bran is stripped first, leaving behind the germ and endosperm. In many cases, the nutritious germ is lost as well during the polishing process. As a result, white rice is not terribly nutritious, naturally. Therefore, some producers add vitamins and minerals back in after the rice has been processed, or they include vitamin pellets in their sacks of rice so that their rice will provide more nutritional value.
Especially in developing nations, enriched rice is extremely important. Since rice is a staple food for millions of people around the world, it is important for rice to be highly nutritious. In regions with a high volume of white rice consumption, nutritional deficiencies have been noted. It is hoped that sales of enriched rice will reverse this trend, by supplementing the daily diet with more vitamins and minerals.
Even after enrichment, enriched rice is not as nutritious as whole brown rice. In addition, it should not be rinsed, because the nutrient coated rice will lose value if rinsed. Many companies also recommend that enriched rice be cooked in a minimum of water, so that nutrition is not lost during the cooking process. However, enriched rice is certainly better than plain white rice, especially for people who are relying on it as a staple food.
Some companies have experimented with genetic modification of rice to make it more nutritionally valuable, so that it will not need to be enriched as part of the post-harvest processing. A well known example of genetically modified rice is golden rice, which is supposed to help prevent blindness by boosting vitamin A levels in the consumer. In most countries, heavily genetically engineered foods were not yet legal for human consumption as of the early 21st century, despite lobbying on the part of the companies which designed these foods. These companies hope that the humanitarian aims of their products will override distaste on the part of environmentalists and some food safety advocates.