Saturday, December 31, 2011


A claim has recently been made by the Kochi based Coconut Board of Agriculture Ministry, GOI about the successful development of a technology for preservation of tender coconut water with the technical help of Defense Food Research Laboratory, Mysore. While it is difficult to vouch safe for the acceptability of the packed product to genuine connoisseurs of this natural beverage at this point of time based on available information, a cursory look at the process indicates that it is just a beverage based coconut water with added sugar and other functional additives. Coconut water and sugarcane juice happen to be two natural beverages notorious for their vulnerability to high temperature due to formation of Maillard reaction chemical artifacts imparting jaggery like flavor to the final product. Aseptic filling technology which is based on high temperature and very short time heat exposure can be a real option to get a product as natural as possible. Probably the jury is still out about the USP of the new technology and on may have to wait and see how far the new product will represent the original quality of coconut water.

"The Coconut Development Board (CDB) in collaboration with Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL), Mysore, has developed the technology for packaging tender coconut water in pouches and aluminum cans. The process technology is now made available to entrepreneurs at a total lumpsum transfer fee of Rs 3 lakh. The processing and packaging of tender coconut water with a capacity of 10,000 tender nuts per day involves an investment ranging from Rs 35 to Rs 40 lakh covering plant, machinery and working capital with a direct employment potential of 30 personnel. The profitability after taking into account the prevailing prices of finished product works out to be around 20 per cent with a payback period of 3 years, according to CDB. Coconut water of 6-7 month stage is first filtered through pressure filters and then mixed with the desired proportion of additives plus sugar and concentrated to the appropriate level. The water is then packed in pouches / cans and retorted in an autoclave, after which it is cooled in a stream of cold water. It helps to retain the flavour of the tender coconut water in pouches or cans for three months at room temperature and for six months under refrigerated conditions".

It is not that coconut water cannot be marketed without quality deterioration as there are a few processors who have already introduced the product in its original "container', viz the natural form without breaking the sterility of the product. This product format enables the content to be held in high quality till it reaches the consumer. One of the most difficult parts of any process in manufacturing coconut water is to "extract" it from the tender coconut which is based on manual labor and lack of uniform quality in terms of sweetness and flavor makes it inevitable to standardize the composition using added water and sugar which may adversely affect the final product quality. Nonetheless such processed products can still be marketed as a beverage with mild flavor. One of the controversies surrounding coconut water concerns the claims being made by some manufacturers in countries like the US that it is highly nutritious and healthy for which there does not exist any valid scientific evidence.


Friday, December 30, 2011


It is said that prevention is better than cure and there cannot be a more articulate statement than this when it comes to managing food safety. In a country like the US where market recalls of suspected tainted foods are taking place with a sickening regularity, the latest action by the food safety agency there recently in forming a grand alliance of various stake holders in this critical area has not come a day sooner. The era when industry had to bother about the quality specifications to be adhered to within their manufacturing premises for ensuring safety of the products before releasing into the market, has gone and a whole gamut of safety protocols have come up that needs to be followed scrupulously. The new alliance among the safety agency, industry, academia and others involved can be expected to be a powerful management tool for reducing food poisoning episodes significantly if not eliminated altogether. Here is a take on this important initiative worth emulating in other countries also. 

"The alliance is composed of members from the FDA, local and state food protection agencies, the food industry, and academia. It is funded by a one-year, $1 million grant to the IIT IFSH, a nationally-recognized leader in food safety. The alliance will:     * develop standardized hazard analysis and preventive controls training and distance education modules for food industry and regulatory personnel;     * design and deliver a state-of-the-art distance learning training portal at the IIT IFSH Moffett Campus in Bedford Park, Ill.;     * develop "train-the-trainer" materials and student education delivery systems     * create a technical assistance network for small- and medium-sized food companies;     * develop commodity/industry sector-specific guidelines for preventive controls;     * assess knowledge gaps and research needs for further enhancement of preventive control measures; and     * identify and prioritize the need for, and compile, critical limits for widely used preventive controls. The food safety alliance is modeled on previous alliances for seafood and fresh produce developed by the FDA and groups representing academia, industry, and government. The Seafood HACCP Alliance was created in 1994, and the Produce Safety Alliance in 2010".

Universities where food science courses are organized are repositories of vast knowledge while their non-involvement with the manufacturing sector makes them singularly ineffective in channelizing their knowledge to the potential users. In India, for example there are at least two dozen academic bodies in different parts of the country imparting "theoretical" knowledge or transferring the "bookish material" to the students who are supposed to man the industry once they come out of these teaching shops! In general it can be safely said that many of these training institutions lack adequately experienced teaching personnel and proper "hands on facilities" to get acquainted with modern technological developments. Absence of even a rudimentary industry-University linkage makes the training program largely irrelevant to the needs of the industry. No wonder that not even 5% of the food industry can boast of a qualified food technologist in their payroll. It is time this situation is changed drastically to bring industry, University and the enforcement agencies together without further loss of time.


Thursday, December 29, 2011


Have any difficulty in sleeping lately? If new findings by scientists are to be believed, drinking a glass of cherry juice at bedtime can help in getting quality sleeping. Though the precise mechanism by which this positive effect is achieved not known, it is surmised that cherry juice significantly increases melatonin levels in the body which in turn improves the quality and duration of sleep. Though the results were based on human subjects of mall size, the cherry juice effect is still significant. Participants who drank cherry juice for a week experienced significant increase in their urinary melatonin (15% to 16%) than those who consumed the placebo drink samples. Actigraphy measurements of participants who consumed the cherry juice saw an increase of around 15 minutes to the time spent in bed, 25 minutes in their total sleep time and a 5% to 6% increase in their "sleep efficiency," a global measure of sleep quality. Cherry juice drinkers reported less daytime napping time compared to their normal sleeping habits before the study and the napping times of the placebo group. Whether the results are really over whelming is a debatable point and will need further studies. Here is a report on this new finding.  

"A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition suggested tart cherry juice is an effective natural sleep aid and insomnia remedy. An international team of researchers at Northumbria University gave healthy adults two glasses of tart cherry juice every day for several consecutive days, first thing in the morning and right before bed time, and found they slept an average of 39 minutes longer with up to 6 percent less non-sleep behavior while in bed, but their sleep did not improve when they drank a non-cherry fruit drink instead, according to the published findings.Previous research supported anecdotal reports that drinking cherry juice enhanced sleep, and the team attributed the benefits of "going red" to significant amounts of melatonin in the fruit, a key molecule in the human body's regulation of sleep-awake cycles.The researchers also noted that anthocyanins, the pigments that give cherries their bright crimson blush, are powerful antioxidant compounds widely thought to prevent and reverse free radical damage throughout the body, according to WebMD.Sleep disturbances affect the health, well being and productivity of nearly one third of Americans who spend more than $84 million on over-the-counter sleep remedies every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Sleep Research Lab in Ontario, Canada.This new study has provided more evidence that cherry juice concentrate could be a viable, cost-effective adjunct treatment, the researchers concluded.

In a world where sleeping pills have become omnipotent for people suffering from lack of sleep due to various reasons, drinking juice may be an alternative option worth considering. What is interesting is the reported ineffectiveness of juices other than that from cherries though there are many colored fruits containing anthocyanins and similar phytochemicals. Whether it is due to relatively high levels of melantonin in cherry fruit or some other constituents yet to be identified is not clear at present. Tart cherries are known to contain about 17 antioxidant phytochemicals including anthocyanins, melantonin and super oxide dismutase. If juice products can really replace drugs for inducing sleep in majority of human beings, it may as well confirm the old saying that "food is thy medicine". For that to happen and Tart juice to become a universal sleep aid, more studies are required with standardizing the processing method and confirmation of the benefit with large body of human subjects.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011


The so called Food Security Bill is now the hot subject matter of discussion in the country with different people viewing it differently, depending on their political color. It is how ever clear that more than its economic or welfare impact on the citizens of this country, the agenda behind such a move is steeped in politics with the forthcoming elections in a few states with large expectations writ large on the face of the present rulers at Delhi! That the Bill is not sound in terms of its presumptions is well known with the existing massive subsidies likely to be doubled or tripled in the coming years. Similarly with the PDS in such utter disrepute who is is ultimately going to be benefited by this financial hemorrhage can easily be imagined. Here is an interesting expose on this subject slightly different from other views and it cannot be brushed aside as another criticism from the opponents.  

"But what is the empirical basis of the claims of widespread and rising hunger in India? Surely, we cannot go by the claims of the Food and Agricultural Organization, World Bank and many NGOs who themselves prosper from propagating the view that India and Africa suffer from ever-rising hunger and poverty. It so happens that successive expenditure surveys of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) have asked Indian households whether they have had enough to eat throughout the year. The proportion of those replying in the negative was a high 19% in rural and 7% in urban areas in 1983. But the proportion has steadily shrunken, dropping to less than 3% in rural and less than 1% in urban areas in 2004-05. In what sense then does India suffer from widespread and rising hunger? In their support, the proponents of the food security Bill point to the decline in calorie and protein consumption intake and rise in fat consumption over the years. According to the NSSO, the per-capita calorie consumption across all individuals fell from 2,266 to 2,047 between 1972-73 and 2004-05 in rural India, and from 2,107 to 2,020 in urban India over the same period. A similar trend has been observed in protein intake while the reverse trend has obtained in fat intake. This decline in calorie consumption is, however, reconciled with the sharp decline in the proportion of individuals reporting lack of food once we recognise that economic development has reduced the need for calorie consumption. Thus, increased mechanisation in agriculture and construction improved means of transportation and the shift away from physically-challenging jobs has reduced physical activity. Simultaneously, better absorption of food following improved epidemiological environment means that less calories must be consumed toproduce a given amount ofenergy. Improvements in adult height and all other vital health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and child nutrition reinforce this argument.
Even so, let us be generous to the proponents for a moment and accept that hunger, as they wish to measure it, has risen and is widespread. The million-dollar question then is whether the food security Bill will provide the necessary correction. A moment's reflection shows that the answer is an unequivocal no. The Bill entitles the poor to 7kg of grain per person per month at prices of 1, 2 and 3 per kg for coarse grain, wheat and rice, respectively. So, if I were someone living in abject poverty in Rajasthan, what will be my response?  Each month, I will claim 35 kg of rice from the ration shop for five members of my family at the total cost of 105. I will then sell this rice at 25 per kg for 875 in the open market, buy the usual 25 kg of coarse grain my family consumes in the open market for 250 (at 10 per kg) and net the handsome profit of 520". 

That statistics in India are highly unreliable is a matter acknowledged universally and to base a massive plan like this on such flimsy and questionable data speaks volume about the quality of governance the good and honest citizens of this country is having now. Is there no escape from this disaster that is waiting to happen once the Parliament passes the Bill in its present form? If the present trend of political chicanery and sycophancy is any indication people of India may have to live with this type of political mis-adventure for some time to come. It is no wonder Dr Mahathir Mohamed, the architect of modern Malaysia rightly said about India's inability to match the performance of other emerging economies that the culprit is "overdose" of democracy in the country!



Compared to main stream food industry the organic food sector is considered puny with its share in the market touching not even 2% but its continued growth, much faster than that achieved by the general food industry conveys a loud message that this sector is here to stay in spite of many impediments before it. It is unfortunate that organic foods are considered to be the prerogative of rich consumers because of the higher price tags they carry though such premium pricing is justified because of the high input costs required to get the necessary certification. That Australia remains the biggest producer of organic foods in the world tells its own story and the rich man's tag is further reinforced because of this factor. Certification process for organically produced foods is very complicated and costly and many developing countries find it non-affordable and non-feasible to get into this business. Here is a take on this emerging market and its dynamics.

"Australia has the largest area of organic farmland in the world at 12 million hectares, with the vast majority of this land comprising large rangelands for organic cattle production. However, the industry is comprised mainly of small operators, which has contributed to difficulties in providing consistency in the quantity and quality of produce. Other dampeners to growth have been intermittent drought conditions over the past five years. Despite this, over the five years through 2011-12, revenue in the industry has remained resilient. The industry will continue to grow strongly over the next five years, favoured by strong demand in domestic and export markets. Over the five years through 2016-17, industry revenue is anticipated to increase an annualised 12.1% to reach $892.3 million in 2016-17. Over this period, there will be increasing participation by supermarket chains in the organic market, downwards pressure on prices from growing economies of scale in production, and benefits from improvements in the certification of organic produce".

A larger question that confronts the world is whether this planet can support a total shift from conventional cultivation to organic version and there is no consensus that this can be achieved. In stead of going too far to produce organic foods every where it may be more realistic to evolve an intermediate mode of production where fertilizers only are allowed while growth hormones, pesticides and other harmful chemicals are avoided. Some times one gets a feeling that organic food certification is too fetish and academic in nature with doubtful impact. Of course most organic food admirers may scoff at this because of their abiding faith in the safety, nutrition and health promoting features. Still it is worth considering whether a new category of foods can be promoted that will be much more safer than conventionally raised foods.


Saturday, December 24, 2011


Here is a well analyzed commentary on food situation in India and the unpardonable mismanagement by the country during the last few years. Probably every Indian will have to hang his head in shame when it is widely known that that the country ranks very low when it comes to looking after its hungry citizens and malnourished children. Is there no accountability in the country to pin point the crime of mismanagement on those responsible for it and bring them to books for this abysmal situation? May be  it is time for an inquisition into the past, punish those who did not do what they were supposed to do and set right the priorities. Of course with the political situation as it is to day, there is no hope that the country will ever be able to pull out of this quagmire in the foreseeable future!    

IT'S A paradox of plenty. At a time when India ranks 67th among 81 countries in the 2011 Global Hunger Index prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute, mountains of grain continue to rot in godowns while more recently, irate farmers spilled tonnes of potatoes on the streets in Punjab. A few months ago, it was tomato farmers in Jharkhand, and then it was the turn of onion growers in Rajasthan. And if you think this is a recent phenomenon, you are mistaken. I have seen this happening for nearly 25 years now across the country at regular intervals. Disgusting, isn't it? Well, the visuals of food rotting speak volumes of the criminal apathy, neglect and callousness with which we, as a nation, have failed to address the shameful scourge of hunger. For a country that has the dubious distinction of having the largest population of hungry in the world — close to 320 million — and with 42 percent of children officially clubbed as malnourished, the spectacle of massive quantities of food being allowed to go waste is an unpardonable crime. What is still worse is that hunger proliferates in a country that claims to be the world's largest democracy. For nearly five years, procurement has hovered at 50-60 million tonnes. Someone had worked it out that if we keep a bag of grain over another, and stack 60 million tonnes in a vertical row, we could actually walk to the moon and back. With so much of surplus grain, and with unmanageable quantities of fruits and vegetables rotting by the roadside, there is no justification for growing hunger. At the same time, it is baffling to find staple food being exported while the population of the hungry and malnourished continues to multiply. No wonder, hunger continues to keep pace with economic growth. Over the years, farming has become a big gamble. It is not only the worrisome vagaries of weather that more often than not plays havoc, farmers are also faced with a strange phenomenon — produce and perish. Take the case of Suryabhagwan, a farmer in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. This year, he voluntarily announced that he would rather work as a 'coolie' than undertake paddy cultivation. Already under heavy debt and knowing that another season of paddy cultivation will only add to his indebtedness, his call for a 'crop holiday' soon reverberated. Within weeks, the idea spread like wildfire, with the result that now more than 1 lakh hectares in the two irrigated districts of East and West Godavari lie barren. AP is a paddy growing area. While production has been steadily on an upswing over the years, adequate market infrastructure for procurement has not been created. The result is that despite a very high production capacity, there is little space for storage. This is not only true of AP or for that matter Punjab and Haryana, the country's food bowl, but extends to the whole country. The tragedy manifested after the initial years of the Green Revolution, when food became abundantly available. The focus then shifted away from agriculture. With public sector investment drastically falling over the past few decades, agriculture was left at the mercy of the rain gods. Protecting every single grain of food produced to feed the growing population of deprived sections never became a national priority. While production increased, the accompanying market and storage infrastructure were not created. India does not even have the capacity to handle and absorb an excess production of 5 percent, whether it is of wheat, potato or cotton. Whatever the policymakers may say, the neglect of agriculture was deliberate. It is essentially designed to open up agriculture to private investment. Farmers have been the victims of a bigger and hidden design to push them out of agriculture. The more they produce, the more they suffer. Produce and perish, and thereby make way for corporate agriculture.

In stark contrast look at India's neighbor on the northern side which has systematically tackled its hunger problem through sustained and purposeful agricultural policies in the past to become a major food producer with sizable surplus for export. The argument that a democratic country like India does not have the same elbow room to emulate China is a lot of Hogwash! If really there is a concern all around regarding the grave situation existing in India and about its bleak future, let there be a National Government with required mandate to evolve a tangible work plan to tackle some of the major problems on a mission mode within a time frame. Probably this may be a cry in the wilderness!


Friday, December 23, 2011


There was a time when chlorine was considered the most efficient disinfectant in food industry besides its preeminent role for disinfecting water. With serious doubts being raised about the safety of chlorine, many alternative chemicals have come to the fore which include ozone, trisodium phosphate, chlorine dioxide, hydrogen peroxide etc. The problem with chlorine is that it leaves a residue for longer time, reacts with organic substances generating toxic artifacts besides being dangerous to store and handle. Emergence of Hydrogen Peroxide as an efficient disinfectant in recent times owes it to its relative safety and ease of handling. Of course such treatments will help only to prevent fast deterioration of cut surfaces besides killing the bacteria present on the surface coming from the field. The progressive quality changes with time, due to physiological and biochemical reactions, especially at ambient temperatures cannot be stopped using H2O2. The practical way of using this chemical is illustrated in the following report: 

Keep it Fresh with Hydrogen Peroxide Whether it's a crisp head of Romaine or a new bag of fresh spinach, you can keep greens, fruits and veggies fresh and healthy longer with hydrogen peroxide. Spritz fresh cut salads immediately­ after making (before there is any dressing on them), then cover and keep in the refrigerator or until ready to serve. If you only dress the salad you serve, you can return the remaining salad to the refrigerat­or with the same treatment. It will taste fresh and remain crisp for up to several days! Wash hard skinned veggies like zucchini, celery, egg plants and tomatoes in a bath of half a sink of cold water and 5 ounces 3 percent food grade hydrogen peroxide. Grapes, apples, pears, cherries, melons and plums can also all be washed this way. For thinner skinned fruits and vegetables­, as well as berries and sprouts, simply spritz with a solution of 1 quart distilled or spring water and 4 ounces hydrogen peroxide. If you want more hydrogen peroxide in your diet, eat more water cress or asparagus. Both are excellent sources. (The hydrogen peroxide you use to clean your fruits and veggies will dissipate into water and oxygen in its active role of killing bacteria and microorganisms, so it can't really be considered a dietary source of h2o2).

Such simple techniques will help common man to take more precaution in processing market accessed fresh produce at home with least skill but very effectively. Recent food poisoning episodes in the US traced to Salmonella on fresh produce like Tomato, Spinach, Water Melon etc could have been avoided if techniques like H2O2 treatment were popularized among the consumers. Probably this method may be more appropriate considering that the alternative option of irradiation is still not practical due to severe consumer reservation. Several years ago food scientists at Mysore, India had worked out a dipping technique using some solutions capable of reducing pesticides residue in fresh produce dramatically, though its wide scale application never materialized due to lack of promotion. In a world becoming increasingly dangerous to live because of uncertainties regarding the safety of foods sourced and marketed from different parts of the world, such simple techniques as illustrated above will go a long way in reassuring the hard pressed denizens that, despite the pervading gloom around, all is not lost yet!


Thursday, December 22, 2011


That industry is invariably averse to any strict surveillance against some of their questionable practices and will never agree, if given an option, in making any standards stricter has been known. There are hundreds of instances in the history of food industry during the last hundred years to prove the point that voluntary action for making the food safer and healthier never worked and expecting this sector to do so in future can be only a wishful thinking. Look at the latest instance of the industry lobbying against making safety limits for dioxins more stringent under some pretext or the other probably fearing adverse impact of such life saving food standards on its business. Here is a take on this vital issue that promises to become a new area of confrontation between the safety authorities and the industry allied with powerful farming lobby in USA. 

'Farmers and the food industry are trying to kill a proposed safety standard for dioxins, chemicals that can cause cancer and are widely found in meat, seafood and dairy products. Industry groups say a daily exposure limit for dioxin proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency isn't justified and could unnecessarily scare consumers away from meat and milk products. An individual could ingest more than the proposed daily limit of dioxin in a single meal, the groups say. "The implications of this action are chilling," they said in a recent letter to the White House. "EPA is proposing to create a situation in which most U.S. agricultural products could arbitrarily be classified as unfit for consumption." The proposed standard would not by itself trigger any regulations on farmers or food companies, but the government could later recommend measures, including restrictions on the content of livestock feed, to reduce the amount of dioxins that people could consume. The dioxin limit is the latest health and environmental issue that has pitted the Obama administration against industries who claim they're being subjected to unwarranted, job-stifling rules and regulations. "Dioxin is one of the most notorious and most studied chemicals," said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. "The industry is trying to change the definition of what is safe to avoid any further scrutiny."

Is it not unfortunate that even the farm sector, propped up by big farmers, has ganged up with the processing industry for the sake of protecting their turf ignoring the well being of the consumers who after all provide the "bread and butter" to them? It is forgotten that when risk impact is measured the benefit of doubt has to be given to the consumers and commercial players have to abide by agencies like World Health Organization and others responsible for fixing "goal posts" for consumer safety. Is it not a pity that food processing industry, already being hauled up for promoting unhealthy foods causing many life style diseases, is bent on repeating its past mistakes endangering the lives of the hapless consumer? One can only hope that better counsel will prevail on them to fall in line with universal safety regimes in stead of blind opposition to enforcement protocols based on sound science.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Critics of Indian government policies and its style of governing are often tarred with a brush accusing them of vested interest and branded as politically motivated! Latest case is the reported mismanagement of buffer stock management which, in turn is closely related to country's food security, does not seem to have any priorities and characterized by lethargic response during periods of food crisis. Interestingly this accusation has come not from trenchant critics but from a Parliamentary committee on public undertakings and one should not forget that this has happened despite the UPA being the ruling combine that controls the government! It looks like food security is simply a populist slogan for politicians in the country without any serious intention to work seriously on achieving the same. Look at the priority of GOI to day when it is thinking only in terms of increasing subsidies from the exchequer for distribution of food grains at prices which are ridiculously low to population supposed to be "poor" though the Public Distribution System already existing has become so rotten even GOI does not know where bulk of the food ends up! Is this not an action for strengthening the "loot brigade" that operates in the country for siphoning off the PDS food grains before it reaches the beneficiaries?. If there is at at least a modicum of accountability those who have been looting the country should have been hanged long ago. Reports like this do not shame the perpetrators of such heinous crimes as ill gotten money is a great "eraser" of all sins!    

A Parliamentary committee has directed the government to ensure the finalisation of the buffer stocking policy for foodgrains within three months. While presenting its report today, the Committee on Public Undertakings headed by Jagdambika Pal expressed "grave concern" over the slow pace of action by the government on the handling of buffer stock policy for food grains. "Expressing their grave concern over the slow pace of action in a matter of serious national issue involving the food security of the country, the committee exhort the department (Food) to address this issue in right earnest and ensure finalisation of buffer stocking policy within 3 months of the presentation of this report," it pointed out. The panel in its earlier report presented to Lok Sabha in February 2009 had recommended that the Food Ministry should go in for intensive technological upgrades to review the buffer stock norms for food grains. It had also suggested that the ministry can take help from Economic Survey, Planning Commission, Finance Ministry, Agriculture Ministry, etc while fixing buffer stock norms. The Department of Food and Public Distribution (F & PD) in its action taken replies furnished in March 2010 had said that the Technical Group headed by F & PD Secretary had asked the National Centre for Agricultural Economics (NCAP) to review the existing buffer stock policy, it added. "The committee are, however, astonished at the subsequent action taken reply furnished by the department in January 2011 that while NCAP report on the subject matter had been considered by the technical group on buffer stocking policy, its report is yet to be finalised," the panel pointed out. The committee felt that the matter has not been given the serious attention that it deserved. The issue relates to the position of food grain stocks with the government in October 2003 and based upon which the Committee on Public Undertakings in its report in 2009 had advised the government to upgrade its buffer stock norms. The panel in its previous report in February 2009 had found the handling of buffer stock of food grains by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) as a case of mismanagement. The committee in its report then had observed that the government committed an error of judgement while handling food grain stocks during 2002-03 and 2003-04. The country had a food grains stock position of 152 lakh tonnes as on October 1, 2002 against the norm of 65 lakh tonnes, but on October 1, 2003, the stock of food grains stood at 52 lakh tonnes against the norm of 65 lakh tonnes, it said. "The committee feel that the government itself has to be blamed for the situation when it allowed high stocks to be piled up and then liquidating the same through exports leading to shortage," it had said. 

The latest extravaganza being unleashed by GOI is coming in the form of Food Security Bill which is likely to become a law soon if the present ruling group has its say and 75% of Indian citizens need not work hard any more because each person can get 7 kg of food grains per month for just Rs 7 while the market price is ruling around Rs 200 for the same quantity! With the poverty level of income being fixed at Rs 32 per day (under MGNREGA scheme Rs 100), one can understand poorest of the poor getting such help from GOI but it is beyond comprehension as to why food should be distributed at such a low cost to others. If this is not electoral calculation what else has motivated the GOI to go for such blatantly populist scheme under the banner of "right to food"? With Food Corporation of India in such a mess, as pointed out by the Parliamentary Committee, it defies logic and common sense as to how this mega "give away" scheme is going to be managed and what economic burden the country will have to bear for this ill considered move?



No body can be blamed for singing the tune of poverty, hunger and malnutrition when it comes to issues concerning the poor people of Asia, Africa and South America because in these three continents live more than half the population in the world, most of them impoverished with neither adequate resources nor means to buy available foods. But how come one hears alarming news about food shortages and black-marketing in foods in a supposedly rich country like Norway? Of course the big difference is that shortage pertains to butter which is seen as a staple in this industrialized country. Is it because that Norway is not a member of the European Union which would have helped it to ward off the crisis through free trade among this trade zone? With free trade principles governing the relationship in the EU, such shortages would not have occurred at all. Here is a report on this rich man's food that has become scarce especially during the Christmas Festivities"

'Norway, a fully industrialized country and ranked first in the latest Human Development Index, a United Nations' metric that tries to quantify the quality of life across countries, is suffering through a butter shortage, a common food staple and an important input in the food industry. Food shortages wouldn't be out of place in places like Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela and some poor Sub-Saharan nations; it is almost unfathomable that they occur in one of the most developed nations in the world. Norwegian authorities seem puzzled by the shortage and subsequent rise in butter prices. They blame a new low-carb high-fat diet craze for the additional demand. Additionally, heavy rains during the summer affected grazing areas for cows, which resulted in reduced milk production. The shortage is especially alarming during the Christmas season, where many traditional recipes rely on significant amounts of the dairy product. Norwegians have actually resorted to churning their own butter, including a restaurant owner interviewed by The Wall Street Journal: "We have to [churn butter]. We can't get hold of any butter, not any at all. And it's right before Christmas, so we have a lot of customers. It's really strange. It takes a lot of time since we use hand mixers." While the diet combined with unfavorable conditions for dairies has limited the amount of available domestic butter, it doesn't address the biggest issue for the limited quantities of the good: trade regulations. Since Norway is not part of the European Union, imports from other nations are subject to tariffs and other protectionist restrictions Butter tariffs in Norway equaled 25 kroner per kilo(about US$ 4.25), effectively eliminating any incentive to import butter from abroad. While the tariff was lowered to four kroner in December allowing Norway to import more than 750 tons of butter for consumers and 1,000 tons for industry, it will do little to solve the shortage, as it will take time for butter to become available to consumers"'

Hearing about this news one is not sure whether to laugh or cry because butter is a rich source of saturated fat and cholesterol considered harmful for human health if consumed regularly and liberally. Of course the western culture depending very heavily on dairy products like butter, cheese etc will find it difficult to adjust to shortages of these products while eastern culture with a strong survival instinct can adapt to more serious food shortages involving main stream foods like cereals. NDDB of India might consider going to the help of Norway through export of butter through a long term arrangement as this product is relatively less costlier in India compared to global prices. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Bis-phenol A ( BPA) which is present as a component in poly carbonate feeding bottles and resin coatings in sanitary cans was a focus of intense scrutiny after it was implicated in health risks, especially to infants. Though the scare about its safety among consumers made many industry players to shun use of poly carbonate in feeding bottles and can resins, there has never been any formal banning of this chemical by any safety authorities in the world. Still BPA was subject matter of intense safety studies during the last two years with no adverse findings emerging so far and it is not surprising that the EU Safety Authorities have given it unqualified approval for use as long as the level does not exceed the prescribed limit. Here is a report from the EU.regarding the present status of BPA vis-a-vis processed foods. 

"Time after time when the comprehensive body of research on BPA is evaluated by unbiased scientific experts, the conclusion is the same -- that BPA does not pose any risk to infants, children, or adults from exposure through food contact applications," said Dr. John M. Rost, NAMPA Chairman. "This latest affirmation of BPA's safety in food packaging should prompt consumers to question the motivation behind the negative publicity on BPA, a material that not only protects food, but that repeatedly has been found safe by expert regulatory bodies worldwide." Over the past several weeks, EFSA conducted a thorough review of new scientific studies. This review was conducted at the request of the European Commission, following recent concerns raised by a report from the French food agency (ANSES). Responding to those concerns, EFSA noted that ANSES had conducted a limited hazard identification process, while EFSA had conducted a full risk assessment on BPA. Based on this latest assessment, EFSA upheld the finding of its 2010 review that the existing tolerable daily intake (TDI) for BPA would "protect all human populations for lifetime exposure to this substance through diet." EFSA also indicated plans to establish a multidisciplinary working group to monitor and review new scientific studies on BPA. "BPA-based epoxy coatings used in metal packaging enable high temperature sterilization that eliminates the danger of food poisoning or contamination," continued Dr. Rost. "These coatings are extremely effective, thoroughly tested, and safe, as reiterated by this recent EFSA evaluation. Expert risk assessments such as this latest work by EFSA should be what guides policy actions on BPA, not political agendas." A full report is available at ."

It is a tribute to the functioning of the safety assessment mechanism in the EU that suspect contaminants are continuously being subjected to evaluation and based on new data generated quick action is taken to remove or retain the already approved standards. One has to place faith on the safety agencies and be guided by their 'wisdom' derived from many tit bits of information at their disposal. On the other hand government agencies bestowed with the responsibility of looking after the welfare of the citizens should not be swayed by the clout or muscle of the industry or the lobbyists and must be true to the scientific truth. Between FDA of the US and EFSA of the EU, latter seems to have acquitted themselves better if one goes by the past track record of these two agencies during the last few years in safeguarding the consumer interest.  


Monday, December 19, 2011


Physically handicapped persons are constrained for carrying out the activities of a normal person in one way or the other and all countries provide special facilities for such people to make their discomfort or handicap less obvious. There are even employment quotas for physically handicapped persons in many organizations which must be lauded and acknowledged. However can an obese person be considered as physically handicapped, deserving special considerations for making their lives more comfortable? Well this is an issue that may become controversial in future as more and more people are being pushed into the "obesity club" every day in almost all countries which are developing economically with the average income going up dramatically, enabling them to go for more calorie dense but tastier foods causing metabolic disequilibrium. While all other forms of physical handicaps are caused by accidents of birth or real life accidents, obesity is an "invited" handicap caused by undisciplined eating practices. Do they really deserve any special consideration for providing relief from the governments? From a social angle it may be a desirable approach to help them over come their disability condition as the consequences of increasing obese populations reflects on the human performance very significantly. Here is a balanced view on this newly emerging problem.  

"A recent Gallup survey of absenteeism among unhealthy American workers found that about 86 percent of full-time workers are above normal weight or have at least one chronic condition. The findings recall an eight-year study that Duke University researchers released several years ago finding that the most overweight workers had 13 times more lost workdays because of work-related injuries, and that their medical claims for those injuries were seven times more costly than those of their fit co-workers. Should it be illegal for businesses to discriminate against applicants who are obese, typically defined as 20 percent above the range of normal body weight or higher? Or is stronger legislation to protect against this type of bias the only answer?"

Recent report about a passenger being forced to stand for almost 7 hours in a flight from Anchorage to New York because he could not sit next to a passenger who was very fat and bulky due to obesity, may be a rare occurrence but one has to recognize that this a problem which is not going to fade away by choosing to ignore it. Of course the Airlines concerned could have forced the person, causing inconvenience to the fellow passenger, to buy two tickets for occupying two seats, though it did not happen that way. It must be admitted that no one willingly welcomes obesity and as it develops slowly and progressively the disease is not recognized till it is too late. Probably those with BMI beyond 34 can be considered as "medical patients", to be compulsorily treated to bring down the BMI mark below 30 through hospitalization for which health insurance companies must defray the cost.


Sunday, December 18, 2011


There was a time in the History when huge families with many members used to live together, helping each other and sharing the difficulties when population was not growing at it is now. Due to comparatively cleaner environment and safer foods nutritionally balanced, the health problems as being seen to day were far and few. The element of kinship was much stronger with younger generation respecting the seniors for their wisdom and elders showering affection on the former. Situation has changed dramatically during the last 5-6 decades with small and compact nuclear families branching of from larger joint family set ups, living in smaller dwelling houses with minimum interaction with fellow relatives. Children are left to fend for themselves more often with parents having very little time to devote to them because of their economic pursuits. The net result is that the children of to day are denied many of the basic emotional feelings, arising out of closer interactions and symbolic emotive signals from their parents or grand parents, resulting in their growth and development with minimum human qualities. What effect such a transformation has on the society can be easily imagined. Here is a "loud thinking" by some one watching this trend from close quarters which must trouble the conscience of the nation.    

"Indian parents often goad their babies to not grow up fast. If childhood is about magic, it is vanishing even before it is lived. In fact children are indeed growing up fast, speeding past the springtime of their lives, say psychiatrists who connect that to the falling levels of emotional quotient. The warm hugs, the tiny kisses, a ride on the Ferris wheel, a family camping trip, vanishing into a book with mum, playing chess against dad, are all now just cloying instances tucked away in fables. "The EQ among our children is on the decline. They have a lower threshold for tolerance, they are easily depressed, their coping ability has reduced and complexity has gone up. Seven- and eight-year-olds talk of violent acts and of dying these days," says psychiatrist Dr Nirmala Rao. The new toys like Angry Birds, Crime Life: Gang Wars and other ultraviolent games don't score too well in enriching EQ. Our cities' kids-unfriendly design doesn't help either: you need to go to a hill station even for a horse ride or to spend time under a waterfall. Peggy Mohan, an English teacher with a Delhi school, says, "We are living in tiny cocoons. Our children are like aliens who've ventured into the adult space. They are as nice as ever, but they do not have the sense of the landscape they live in." 

The rate at which urbanization is taking place is alarming enough to call for arresting this trend by many sociologists lest there could be gross distortions in the human values cherished by many and as earning opportunities are increasingly being concentrated in urban areas, there is mindless devastation of rural entities as agriculture is no more a sustaining avocation for millions of farmers in a country like India. If future citizens are going to be from the urban areas evolving from an environment similar to a "pressure cooker", with very little time to think about fellow citizens, what type of country will emerge eventually? It is in this context many sociologists plead for better environment within four walls of the urban families where children are exposed to the nuances of emotional feelings from the parents which eventually will also manifest in public places for fellow citizens. Probably mindless industrialization will destroy the fabric of the society and it is time the employment providers include more and more family welfare measures for their employees to restore the traditional values as they were during olden days!


Friday, December 16, 2011


The discovery that some unsaturated fatty acids like omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential in the diet for maintaining prime health and avoiding diseases like CVD and Cancer has changed the human perception regarding consumption of edible fats in the daily diet. Added to this there is a widely held belief that saturated fats and trans fats are not good for health bringing about radical changes in the composition of food products developed and marketed by the industry during the last one decade. Though Flax seed, Olive oil are sources of essential fatty acids, fish is the over whelming favorite of nutritionist as well as health experts as the long chain Omega-3 present in this source namely DHA is more efficient in bestowing the benefits attributed to this nutrient. As there is a significant population in the world which do not consume fish and since a few plant sources have smaller levels of Omega-3, the search for an alternate source with high omega-3 has been going on for some time ending up with some Algal strains capable of producing them under right media conditions. Here is a take on this interesting development that forebodes well for the food fortification programs of the industry.    

"Fats tend to be less than cooperative in food processing. This can make the move to healthy fats somewhat complicated. In beverage formulations, for example, it's the nature of fats not to mix with water, making it difficult to fortify drinks with omega-3 fatty acids. But in food formulations, unsaturated fats are more fluid at room temperature and oxidize more readily than saturated fats. With omega-3s the darling of healthy oils, other hurdles have to be overcome. "Fats with high unsaturation, as is the case of the long-chain fatty acids DHA and EPA, are delicate compounds that can degrade and cause off-flavors and aromas that are undesirable," says Ruben Abril, director of international ingredient formulations and technical support for DSM Nutritional Products (, Parsippany, N.J. "However, if these fats are handled properly and added in the food production process using a systematic approach, the final fortified product will taste and smell as we expect them to taste and smell. DHA/EPA-fortified milk will taste like milk if it is consumed directly or if it is used as an ingredient to prepare other foods, and it will have the added advantage of now containing DHA and/or EPA omega-3s." DHA comes primarily from fish. This severely restricts its usage as the aroma and flavor are strong, reminding consumers of their last fishing trip. While microencapsulation technology and better processing threw the door open for wider use of fish-sourced omegas in foods and beverages, some promises of neutral aroma were still proving hard to keep. The increased use of the alphalinolenic acid (ALA) form of omega oil from flax oil has proven successful, but ALA does not completely convert to DHA in the body and that's the form with the greatest health benefit. Fish oil DHA is actually a modification of the shorter-chain omega-3 fatty acids ultimately derived from algae and research led to the discovery of algae that produced the longer chain DHA directly. This form has the advantage of providing the desired health components as fish oil without the negatives of aroma associated with that source. Algal omega oil is often referred to as vegan DHA. DSM provides life's DHA brand, an omega derived solely from algae. Several different milk producers have launched products enriched with algal DHA in the past few years. "I've seen the growing trend in the fortification of foods with DHA/EPA, and it will continue to grow," adds Abril. "Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are extremely important fats scientifically proven to help support eye, brain and cardiovascular health at all stages of life."

Being unsaturated in nature Omega-3 oils are highly vulnerable to oxidative rancidity and food formulations containing high water like milk and beverages, product development can be a nightmare. But with newer technologies like encapsulation and emulsification it is possible to incorporate Omega-3 into any food product during the manufacturing process. Algal Omega-3 is practically odorless, unlike fish oils and can be incorporated with no evidence of its presence to the consumer. This development is especially relevant to a predominantly vegetarian country like India with sizable population shunning fish and soon Omega-3 fortified foods may make their presence on the supermarket shelves in the country.



Nano technology is indeed an exciting development about which manufacturing industry world over is pinning lot of hope in expanding the product portfolio further through this innovative process. Food industry is no exception to this feeling. Though the technology is based on sound scientific principles, how far its application in food processing and ingredient preparation will be safe is a big question that has no conclusive answer as of now. Here is a critique on this issue which must caution the industry against rushing head on to apply nano technology indiscriminately without thinking about potential consequences to consumer health. 

"Some of the industrial and consumer-product applications using nanoparticles border on the magical. But a growing number of solid scientific studies have, in the minds of many public health experts, justified hoisting caution flags as they repeatedly show that many nanoparticles are small enough to penetrate the skin, lungs and pass through the vital blood-brain barrier. The potential for lung cancer - especially from the inhalation of carbon nanotubes - has also surfaced in some studies. Nano is from the Greek word for dwarf and a nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or a total of one sliver if you were to cut the period at the end of this sentence into 50,000 slices. "Consumers should be concerned that these tiny chemicals may already be in foods and food contact materials, without being publicly disclosed," says Jennifer Sass, senior scientist and nano authority for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Consumers can't even make informed choices when they don't know where these chemicals are, what they are, or how toxic they are. It's an outrageous violation of the public trust that companies are refusing to identify on the label the ingredients or food contact materials that are nano-sized, and FDA is letting them get away with it," Sass said. The report said that because of their small size, the "intentionally engineered" nanomaterials are able to go places in the body that larger particles cannot, and it warned: •New "nanofood" products should only be used if safety testing ensures that there are no negative impacts on human health or the environment. •Current regulatory controls are inadequate to assess or ensure safety. •The scientific consensus is that there is a lack of knowledge regarding how nanomaterials interact at the molecular or physiological levels and their potential impacts on health and the environment".

What is troubling the consumers is that there is no way to ascertain how many foods on the market shelves are made using nano technology or are there products containing nano particles as ingredients since the current labeling regulations do not provide for giving out this information. More over there is no way any Chemist can analyze a food prepared with nano technology or nano technology based ingredients and indict the manufacturer. The move by FDA of the US to declare nanotechnology based food ingredients as GRAS is highly irresponsible and is fraught with implications world over as many countries adopt many of the standards set by FDA in their own country blindly. It is time international agencies like the FAO and WHO step in and bring some sanity in this critical area.



Food safety agencies all over the world have an unenviable task to perform and whether they do this honestly or otherwise, they will be damned eventually whenever a food poisoning episode occurs! Look at the recent confrontation between the FDA of the US and the meat industry conglomerates regarding compulsory screening of raw meat for non-0157 strain of E.coli  before sending the consignments to the market. According to reliable data available, these variants of E.coli affect a few thousand people though the damage inflicted is neither widespread nor very alarming but safety agencies cannot ignore even a small episode of contamination, lest it becomes an epidemic in future. The arguments by the industry, that such rigid control is too premature, does not justify for huge investments for monitoring and eliminating these pathogens and it is unfair to insist on such tests for imported meats from countries like Australia and New Zealand where non-0157 is not a public health concern, may have some substance. Here is a critique on this issue that highlights the on-going tussle.

"A who's who of meat industry groups petitioned USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack last week to demand a delay in implementing the Food Safety and Inspection Service's proposed policy regarding mandatory testing for non-O157 E. coli strains in raw meat products. The new rule, set to begin in March, declared six additional serotypes of pathogenic E. coli (O26, O103, O45, O111, O121 and O145) as adulterants in raw meat products. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those six non-O157 strains annually cause more than 36,000 illnesses, 1,100 hospitalizations and 30 deaths in the United States. The coalition, which included key trade groups from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Uruguay, stated concerns about the impact of the new rule on export-import trade and the cost to industry of implementing what is considered to be a negligible public health benefit. "Given that STEC (shiga toxin producing E. coli) other than E. coli O157:H7 are not considered a major public health concern within countries such as Australia, New Zealand, among others, and that the majority of non-E. coli O157 STEC infections are attributed to non-beef food sources, coupled with the infirmities of the Draft Risk Profile, legitimate WTO questions exist," the groups contended in their letter. "In very plain terms, implementing this policy is premature," the American Meat Institute noted in a statement, citing the lack of data confirming that the new strains are a serious hazard. "It is not clear whether on net there will be a reduction in the number of illnesses," the industry's letter stated. AMI Executive Vice President James H. Hodges noted that, "In-plant food safety technologies do not discriminate; they destroy all strains of E. coli. USDA is proposing a solution in search of a problem." The Canadian Meat Council, which represents beef exporters to the United States, complained as well. "In a country where we don't see the six STECs as critically as they are viewed in the U.S., we'd like to exempt Canadian products shipped to the U.S. from these rules," said Brian Reed, a CMC director and past president and an executive at XL Foods in Markham, Ontario".

A relevant question to be addressed by the safety agencies is whether a negative result on 0157 by routine tests done by the industry does not imply that others are also not present in these products? Whether measures taken to eliminate 0157 should also take care of the non-0157 versions in the products is another issue to be sorted out. If the US is so much convinced about the seriousness of contamination by non-0157 E.coli it is time all meat products are allowed to be treated with Gamma Radiation process to ensure absolute freedom from all pathogens. If some processors misuse the irradiation process for fraudulent and unethical marketing practices there are other mechanisms to bring them to books.



Food poisoning due to microbiological contamination is getting increased attention these days with billions of dollars of tainted foods being recalled from the market by the food industry due to strong suspicion about their safety. Traditional microbiological assays to identify contaminating pathogens used to take days together before any definite conclusions can be drawn putting high economic burden on food industry besides making the food processing a high risk area of investment. The most recent pathogen driven food poising episode occurred in Europe affecting hundreds of people and forcing recall of the tainted sprouts across the continent. It took almost a month for the safety authorities to pin point the nature and the source of contamination, highlighting the logistical problems associated with monitoring food safety. One of the key factors that can expedite identification of the contaminant(s) is the rapidity with which assays can be performed and recent development of a molecular detection system augurs well for the quality control laboratories in the industry as well the safety vigilance agencies all over the world.

"The 3M Molecular Detection System delivers highly sensitive results by targeting and amplifying nucleic acid in enriched samples. The automated technology has been evaluated with a variety of food types, including produce, meats, processed foods, pet food and food processing-related environmental samples. The instrument is sleek and compact -- taking up less counter space than a laptop computer, making it portable and adaptable to various lab environments. "Pathogen testing has now been made simple and affordable," said Niki Montgomery, 3M Food Safety global marketing development manager. "Food processors will benefit greatly from the system's affordable accuracy and fast time to results, minimizing downtime in the lab. Numerous organisms can be tested in a single run and it was designed to help our customers perform fewer repeat tests and make critical decisions faster." Three assays available, validation efforts underway. As part of the 3M Molecular Detection System platform, individual, pathogen-specific assays, or procedural tests, will be sold as a test kits. Each assay test kit uses the same software interface and same DNA extraction protocol for testing between one and 96 samples per run. Assays for Salmonella, E. coli O157 (including H7) and Listeria are available immediately; a test for Listeria monocytogenes is expected in early 2012. 3M will continue to invest in developing a full portfolio of pathogen testing solutions to address customer needs. Independent laboratory studies with the 3M Molecular Detection System are currently underway to pursue global method recognitions. "In our evaluation of the Listeria species assay, we liked the small footprint of the system as well as the quick delivery of results after sample enrichment," said Dr. Martin Wiedmann, a professor in Cornell University's Department of Food Science who studied the system's analyses of samples taken from meat-packing, seafood processing and retail locations. "This system definitely illustrates the potential of isothermal methods for rapid detection of foodborne pathogens."

The claim that this method is very reliable and accurate besides taking much less time, probably will make it very popular provided the capital and recurring costs are affordable to the industry. Another way of looking at it is that even if the cost is some what stiff, it is more preferable to invest in this gadget rather than bearing the full economic burden of a possible recall. Though availability of such sophisticated assay systems can significantly reduce food poisoning episodes, consumer will still have to be on guard when it comes to trusting industrial foods absolutely and as a general precaution more care needs to be taken when "cold foods" from the refrigerated section of the super market or Delis are consumed.


Thursday, December 15, 2011


"Eating out" habit gets ingrained with families having very little time to spend time in their kitchen and with two incomes coming from both husband and wife, these families have sufficient surplus money to go to good restaurants more frequently. Modern living style invariably places a high value for eating out with family and in many affluent countries home cooking is becoming far and few opening up opportunities for restaurateurs to set up good quality eateries with relative ambiance. It is not uncommon for people to wait for getting seats in reputed restaurants though recent recessionary atmosphere did affect the business to some extent. Evolution of food trucks into a national phenomenon in the US is making the organized catering more nervous and added to this another trend is emerging that weans away patrons from established restaurants in significant numbers. Super Markets with practically no expertise in hotel managementare reported to be considering entering the catering sector by setting up high end eating experience to increase their clientele. This is a trend with far reaching implications to the organized catering business as their regular patrons may reduce the frequency of visits drastically because of the convenience and synergy offered by the former. Here is an interesting expose on this latest trend.      

"Welcome to the age of the mash-up. Your phone has swallowed the digital camera and GPS. Your home is an office. Airplanes are Internet providers. And now, you can dine at the supermarket. It's a competitive world of blurring lines, where the most useful combo wins. Ten years ago, Whole Foods Market, Wegmans, and the Texas chain Central Market began to experiment with bringing a high-quality dining experience into their stores. At the time, the idea of eating at a supermarket was unseemly, and it often meant a smattering of tables where you might wolf down the contents of a Styrofoam clamshell. Prepared food was intended — if you had any manners — to transport home. Now in-store dining is a new market segment, no longer something you do on the sly, but a destination for families, couples in a hurry before the movies, tired shoppers who want something to eat before they hit the aisles, even the fussiest foodies. And in these waiterless situations, there are no gratuities, which contributes to attractive pricing. As new supermarkets spring up, plans invariably include kitchens run by chefs, dining facilities, and more — in-store classes (Whole Foods in Dedham has a glassed-in Wellness Club), live music, poetry slams, wine tastings (nightly at Shaw's at the Prudential Center), and full-fledged pubs (as at some Wegmans locations). Add fancy bakery cafes (like the excellent Tous Les Jours at H Mart in Burlington), throw in a bank and a post office for good measure, and there may be no reason to ever go anywhere else" 

"When the recession hit in 2008, sales of food from the aisles decreased, items per trip (known as "basket size'') stagnated, and profits fell. Supermarkets sprinted toward the on-premise dining model that other pioneers were working to perfect. "In the past 24 to 36 months, in-store dining has become heightened, as retailers realized they couldn't increase the basket size by simply lowering prices,'' explains Thom Blischok, president of SymphonyIRI Group, a retail research and consulting firm. "They began these innovations to drive in-store traffic, and change the dining experience — in quality, in atmosphere, and in variety. The ambience of a chef standing back there with the hat in a grocery store said: 'Ah! I can eat good quality food here at a good price.' '' As supermarkets evolve into these strange multi-entities, restaurants are struggling to keep up. Norm Vernadakis, a director at Big Y Markets, says the 40-seat dining area at the Walpole location has become a revenue center by winning over diners. "They're finding that our food is restaurant quality, wholesome, and you don't need to tip our people.'' His strategy is to beat the competition on both price and quality. "I don't think anybody does fish and chips better than we do,'' he says, adding wryly, "I know that will probably irritate a couple people in Boston.'' The Walpole Big Y's revenue from in-store dining rose 50 percent in 2010, he said, and another 15 percent in 2011. Crispy, tender, and served with authentic malt vinegar, the fish and chips are $7.99. Across the board, supermarket companies argue (in a way that seems almost scripted) that they can create better dishes than fast-food or fast-casual restaurants, in part because they have many aisles of fresh ingredients. And in-house chefs usually have surprising autonomy to cook what they want, catering to local tastes and leveraging talents (and ethnicities) on staff".

On the logistical side many of the existing super markets may find it difficult to establish high end restaurants within their premises but new ones can plan their ventures better for including such facilities. The Mall concept which became a standard business mode incorporates good quality eateries but it is generally not owned by the owners of the Mall and not linked to groceries business. In the past super markets used to lease out pace to fast food joints for the benefit of their customers who want to have a quick bite before or after their shopping for groceries but these food joints were more frequented by youngsters and senior citizens with not much of an expectation of a high quality food. Some of the super markets even offer on a buffet basis salads, soups etc from their Deli section and this experience may be helpful in expanding the facility further. But the new trend as being reported in countries like the US, may change the image of super markets and will provide some cushion for them in terms of dip in grocery business. A time may come when families may visit these super market restaurants for a happy eating out experience while purchase of groceries becomes secondary!