Monday, December 31, 2012


It has been said umpteen number of times that Indian agriculture system as it works to day is a no-win situation for both the farmer as well as the consumer. As food inflation is intimately linked to production cost, during the last one decade the cost of agricultural inputs has climbed steeply, in spite of billions of rupees of subsidies supposed to be doled out by the federal government. Almost 700 million people stay in rural hinterlands, close to the agricultural production areas working against all odds to raise food crops for the entire nation and with average size of land holding estimated to be less than 2 acres per family what can one expect from the agricultural activity which depends heavily on regular rainfalls. Land productivity being abysmally low, being fraction of what is achieved even in African countries, agriculture is not and has never been a viable pre-occupation for many. Absence of a long term agriculture policy which makes some sense, the drift is clearly visible with thousands of farmers choosing the suicide route for salvation. As this subject has several dimensions, a detailed discussion here is out of place but reference to the article cited below gives some insight to the problem India is suffering from.

"The key reasons for the escalation in the cost of producing food in India are the rapid increase in farm input prices and long-term structural deficiencies such as low productivity, fragmented landholdings, and declining public investments in agricultural infrastructure. The prices of various farm inputs, measured by WPI inflation rate, were subject to significant increase over the years. On an average basis, the WPI inflation rate (Base: 1993-'94) of light diesel oil has recorded an increase of 18.28 per cent between 2003-'04 and 2008-'09. During the last two years also, together with fertilizers and electricity, the prices of most of these farm inputs have increased substantially. As regards labour cost, according to the estimates provided by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), between the second half of 2008 and second half of 2011 the agricultural wage rate at the all India level has increased sharply by 74 per cent. The rise in the wage cost ranged from 43 per cent in Himachal Pradesh to 102 per cent in Odisha. A multi-pronged approach is needed to tackle the increasing cost of food production. Estimates show that more than 40 per cent of the total variable CoP in Indian agriculture consists of labour. Due to reasons such as high non-farm wages, aspirational migration, educational attainment, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) farm labour has become scarce and costly in rural India. Some of the sensible ways to overcome the labour shortage are increased mechanisation of the farm operations, including that of small land holdings through group farming method; extending the provision for taking up asset creation works on private agricultural land under MGNREGS to more beneficiaries; and making agricultural operations a part of MGNREGS on an equal cost sharing basis between the farmer and the government"

Will there be salvation for this country ever? Sadly the federal government seems to be banking on its FDI policy to get foreign investors for helping the farmers of this country! If during the last 65 years of Independence the country has not been able to provide the farmers even with simple infrastructure for carrying out the farming activities efficiently, will this nation become permanently dependent on imports of vital foods like pulses and oil seeds? The argument that the country is exporting food grains and sugar cannot gloss over the fact there are about 300 million people in the country who are considered impoverished, malnourished and hungry with inadequate access to food. As the report above points out there has to be a serious re-look at the agricultural policy to provide a conducive environment for the farmers of this country to produce food economically and help consumers to access the same at affordable prices.


Sunday, December 30, 2012


In one of the most paradoxical twists of irony, food poisoning episodes that occur with sickening regularity in countries like the US never posed any serious danger among billions of impoverished and malnourished population in Asia, Africa and Latin America! Whether the extra strong immunity of the latter or the extra vulnerability of Americans to infection, the fact still remains that industrialized nations are struggling to check, contain and prevent such food poisoning incidences as much as possible deploying most modern compliance protocols and sophisticated technological intervention. The bacterium Salmonella, one of the scourges causing immense damage among western population still rules the roost and meat products are most vulnerable to their disease causing ability. The most frequent source of contamination is the slaughtering house floor where the GI tract is punctured spilling over the contents which have high pathogen concentration. If a recent study which found that use of essential oils in water a few hours before slaughter can reduce such contamination, is true, there is hope for a new commercial practice involving use of these oils in thousands of slaughter houses across the world. Here is a glimpse of the findings which support earlier studies attributing anti bacterial properties to many spices and herbs containing essential oils.

Chickens that consumed the oil mixture harbored fewer Salmonella bacteria in their crop, but nearly similar percentages in their ceca when compared to chickens that simply drank water. During slaughter and processing, chicken meat can become contaminated with pathogenic bacteria if either of those two organs becomes ruptured. Considering that the oil treatment does little to reduce Salmonella in the cecum, it might appear wishful to think it could significantly reduce contamination in the slaughterhouse. The upshot, however, is that a chicken's crop is roughly 86 times more likely to be ruptured during slaughter than the cecum. The studies' lead author, Walid Alali, Ph.D., told Food Safety News he has not heard of any studies estimating the percentage of carcasses contaminated by rupturing of the crop versus the cecum. But the hope is that Salmonella reductions in the crop alone may be enough to stave off considerable amounts of contamination during processing, Alali said. Alali's studies used a commercial oil mixture known as "mix-oil," an Italian-made product first marketed in 2004 to improve livestock health. It was never intended to treat pathogens, but numerous studies demonstrate the antimicrobial characteristics of essential oils, Alali said. Some researchers and farmers have tried using essential oils to control pathogens in the past, though this marks the first time oils have been blended into the water. Others add organic acids into the water for the same purpose. The advantage to distributing oils via water as opposed to feed comes when considering a certain practice in chicken farming known as the "withdrawal period": Chickens are typically denied feed for the last 8 to 12 hours of their life before transport to slaughter and are only left with water to drink. Naturally, the chickens get hungry in that much time. They start pecking at anything that might look like food — including litter, which might be contaminated with Salmonella.

There is lot of logic in what the studies have reported but more insight about the mode of action of these oils on the poultry birds needs to be obtained. In India there are ancient practices which make use of major spices like black pepper, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, etc for treating many diseases under the traditional medicinal system. Even the western countries are to day considering alternate medicines for many allopathic main stream drug regimes and there fore use of spice oils by the poultry industry should not be a constraint. The wide scale use of antibiotics by the meat industry is now being blamed for the emergence of many super bugs with resistance to almost all antibiotics known to day posing a high degree of risk to the lives of billions of people who other wise depend on a few front line antibiotics. The extent of danger can be gauged from the fact that more than 80% of antibiotics consumed in the US finds its way to the meat industry! Can essential oils save this world? Possible!


Saturday, December 29, 2012


Recent uproar in the Lok Sabha regarding the desirability and appropriateness of amending Indian constitution to by pass merit in favor of quotas for promotion in government service raises the crucial question whether this country is wedded to this so called reservation perpetually? Every politician worth his salt seems to be thinking that reservation for different segments of population is a sure way to vote banks in their electoral calculations, forgetting that it is precisely such artificial segmentation based on castes and other criteria which divides the country! Whether it is in medical service, engineering tasks, armed forces or scientific endeavors how is it possible to deny those, who are brilliant with exemplary track record, promotions and allow others who might be mediocre to overtake them under the proposed policy being touted in the name of social justice!? In stead of evolving and implementing constructive policies and actions for all inclusive economic development, a section of the population is being "pampered", ignoring equity and justice that should have been been the basis for national policies. Here is a take on this unfortunate tendency that is becoming increasingly discernible in the words and actions of political parties who are competing with each other in hurtling the country to gradual destruction. 

If the politicians in government really cared, they would have provided a primary and secondary education budget of several times the funds that have been allotted over the last 65 years of our freedom from the British Raj. The governments, at the Centre and the state, would have provided far more money for the basic items of living like water and food for the poorest of the poor. If the real care existed, forget the 'special' care as mentioned in the constitution, more than half the children below the age of five would not have been suffering from malnutrition. Various employment schemes that have been operating since six decades would have uplifted crores of the weaker sections out of hunger and poverty; this has not happened. Just as there is a delusion of economic growth for a large fraction of the country's population, there is another illusion being created around reservations in government jobs and now in promotions. As if one fantasy of entry level reservations was not enough, one more mirage of promotion quotas is being crafted. Politicians of all hues are vocal or silent supporters of such a smoke-screen being erected. It benefits them all. It is after all, a part of the corruption culture that has enveloped the Indian polity and society at large. It is all an aspect of the habit of 'taking a shortcut' that has set in.  For decades, we have seen 22.5 per cent reservations for the SC/ST and 27 per cent for the OBC. What fraction of the population of around 300 million SC/STs have made good? Ill-treatment of dalits, rapes of dalit women and other atrocities continue unabated. What they need is real 'affirmative action'. Quotas are just a palliative being given to this hungry huge section of people. Political parties at the Centre are now adding one more sedative – the quotas in promotion. What the promotional quota system may do is to further divide the citizens of India. Instead of phasing out the quota system by really uplifting the downtrodden dalits and others, we are adding to the scheme that gives rise to unnecessary resentment and acrimony. The arrangement has been inefficient and the politicians governing the country at different times meant that it remains so. The present lot of them is on the verge of reaffirming that once more. What the weaker sections and all the suffering humanity of India need is real time tangible boost away from grinding poverty, terrible food scarcity, acute shortage of water, no shelter, no education, no hygiene, no sanitation, marginal health care and total lack of security. Instead, the political system is giving them more of the reservations and the ill-will of others.

Why is that after 65 years of independence, the living conditions among more than 90% of the population have become less conducive to lead a decent life? There are shortages all around whether it is water, power, pulses, oil seeds, fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry or fish. The industry and trade have been given a free hand to exploit the miserable conditions of the hapless citizens with exorbitant prices for every conceivable consumer products including day to day necessities, the mark up being irrational, illogical and extortionist in nature. Who is happy to day in the country? Only those who can multiply their wealth by 100% every year and to some extent the privileged employees of IT companies and government agencies drawing fat salaries, disproportionate to the needs of a luxurious life under Indian conditions! In a country with dilapidated infrastructure, acute shortage of water and power, poverty ridden farmers committing suicides with alarming regularity, highly corrupt politicians and bureaucrats being a majority in the cream of administrators that controls the destiny of the country and high rate of brain drain and resources drain, people can seek solace only in temples, churches, mosques, gurudwaras, synagogues and such places where GOD is supposed to be present!  


Thursday, December 27, 2012


The controversy surrounding the reported incidence of massive contamination of the Appam prasadam in Sabarimala shrine refuses to die down while the truth is yet to emerge as to what has really happened there. If the authorities concerned have burned about 3 lakh pieces, as being reported, there must be some thing seriously wrong with the management system there deserving immediate intervention. It is inconceivable that a product like Appam as being prepared in Sabarimala can attract fungus growth because of its very low moisture content and water activity. Preparing under unhygienic conditions can contribute to contamination but frying at temperatures above 160C is bound to destroy any infecting vectors beyond doubt. That leads to the conclusion that either the frying was not proper or the product was stored for longer time allowing surface moistening under high humidity conditions that prevail in Kerala, especially during rains. Here is a take on this issue as being reported in the media.

"The report of the microbiology lab of Council for Food Research and Development (CFRD) at Konni in Pathanamthitta district, which examined the samples of the appam, say that the fungus had developed in the sweetmeat since it had been either prepared in unhygienic condition or not cooked fully. The CFRD is a State-Centre joint venture. The fungus found in the appam can cause liver ailment in adults and can kill children, says the report. Sources did not disclose more details of the report as it has to be submitted before the  Kerala High Court, which closely monitors the activities at the temple. It has even appointed a special envoy to the temple to report the developments during the annual pilgrimage. The temple authorities claim that the stale "appams" were destroyed. Pilgrims still complain that they are getting fungus-infected "appams."

The analysis report by a NABL accredited laboratory in Kerala that the samples they had picked were fungus infected has some credibility but just an isolated sample result cannot allow any one to generalize the situation. What is needed is a thorough reassessment of the on going practices at the temple kitchens and identify deficiencies, if any, to modify the production technology and the environment. It is an established convention that any large scale food manufacturing facilities such as the one at Sabarimala should have a very strong quality monitoring regime which only can assure uniform quality and reasonable safety of products coming out of the production line. One wonders why the authorities responsible cannot go for modern quality and management protocols and certification systems like ISO 14000 or HACCP or SAP which after all does not cost much and easily affordable to a cash rich organization like the Travancore Devaswam Board. Sooner it is done better it will be for the health of millions of unsuspecting devotees who throng the shrine round the year.


Sunday, December 23, 2012


Human gastrointestinal tract harbors a variety of species of micro organisms which are supposed to help maintain the health with minimum vulnerability to many infectious diseases, especially those entering via the oral route.The concept of pro-biotics and pre-biotics and their role in nurturing the intestinal flora are more or less established and there are thousands of foods in the market containing these beneficial ingredients in processed foods. In spite of many claims made regarding specific health benefits of these food ingredients, many such claims are being disapproved by authorities in different countries for want of confirmatory evidence using human subjects, as most data are generated with animal systems. All said and done it can be safely assumed that most bacteria that reside in human guts, especially the lactic acid bacteria, are beneficial to every one, at least for keeping in check many harmful microorganisms co-existing with them that can cause serious diseases. Some of the disorders related to stomach and intestine are considered genetic and among these Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBD) poses enormous challenge to medical fraternity in treating it. Now comes a report which suggests that IBD can be cured using a genetically modified Lactic acid bacterial strains that can produce the anti inflammatory protein Elafin capable of countering the effect of IBD. Here are further details about this innovative approach in IBD treatment.  

"Using non-pathogenic bacteria found naturally in the intestine and dairy food, scientists from Inserm and Inra have designed modified bacteria to produce Elafin, a human protein which is known for its anti-inflammatory proprieties.  Their breakthrough has provided new hope for individuals suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases, known as IBD, (specifically Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis). They believe that administering this protein directly into the intestine could protect against inflammatory attacks and restore intestinal equilibrium and its functions. During inflammatory outbreaks, IBDs are chiefly characterised by abdominal pain, frequent diarrhoea (sometimes with bleeding) or even disorders in the anal area (fissure, abscesses). Different avenues are being explored to explain the origin of IBDs, including the role of genetic or environmental factors. The intestinal flora seems to play an important role in the outbreak of inflammation, although little is known about it. Identifying an effective treatment is also at the heart of the investigations. Although Elafin is found naturally in the intestine to protect it against attacks, it disappears in patients suffering from IBDs. To design the modified bacteria, the human Elafin gene, isolated in collaboration with a team from the Institut Pasteau, was introduced in Lactococcus lactis and Lactobacillus casei, two food-grade bacteria found in dairy products. When administered orally to mice, the human Elafin-producing bacteria are found a few hours later on the surface of the intestine where they deliver the anti-inflammatory protein. In different mice models of chronic or acute intestinal inflammation, oral treatment using these Elafin-producing bacteria provided significant protection of the intestine and decreased inflammatory symptoms. Elafin expressed by these bacteria also protects cultured human intestinal cell lines from inflammatory outbreaks similar to those observed in chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. Elafin produced in this way restores the equilibrium of intestinal mucus by reducing inflammation and accelerating cell-healing processes".

IBD can be a chronic disease and invariably treatments being offered to day do not cure the disease as most of them are palliative in nature. The studies which brought about the role of Elafin protein in the development of the disease have shown the way forward and it is up to the medical community to make use of these findings for the benefit of those suffering from this painful disease. Use of human Elafin gene for modifying Lactobacillus casei and Lactococcus lactii may pose a challenge as it involves high quality biotechnological techniques and till such time when their production becomes feasible, the research may stay within the laboratory where it was developed. Pharma companies may have to be sensitized and taken into confidence for production of lyophilized GM bacterial preparations for regular treatment of patients suffering from IBD.



Coffee is considered a refreshing stimulant beverage consumed world over and its high caffeine content is supposed to provide the effect that consumers enjoy after drinking it. The seeds grown on a dozen countries of the world need substantial processing before the basic coffee powder is obtained for brewing into the drink. Interestingly those are wedded to coffee consume it in different ways and though it has significant bitterness many like this taint along with the aroma contributed by over 800 chemicals generated during roasting! Black coffee which is the normal brewed coffee is liked mostly in America and other countries, in India the brew is whitened with milk or commercial casein based whiteners and sweetened before consuming it as a hot beverage. Besides the natural varieties like Arabica, Robusta, Peaberry etc there are some coffee products including decaffeinated coffee, civet coffee and ivory coffee. Civet coffee has already established as a commercial product and is reported to be popular with some people though it is associated with the feces of the wild civet cat. Similarly the Black Ivory Coffee, which recently gained some attention in Thailand is product extracted from elephant dung after making the animal eat the raw coffee beans along with its feed. Considered the world's costliest coffee which is currently being offered at a fabulous price of $ 1500 per kg and the ready coffee beverage made with it costing as high as $ 50 a cup, what persuades some consumers to buy this product is a big mystery. Here is a report on this peculiar phenomenon that is currently restricted to the hilly northern parts of Thailand.  

Trumpeted as earthy in flavor and smooth on the palate, the exotic new brew is made from beans eaten by Thai elephants and plucked a day later from their dung. A gut reaction inside the elephant creates what its founder calls the coffee's unique taste. Stomach turning or oddly alluring, this is not just one of the world's most unusual specialty coffees. At $1,100 per kilogram ($500 per pound), it's also among the world's priciest. For now, only the wealthy or well-traveled have access to the cuppa, which is called Black Ivory Coffee. It was launched last month at a few luxury hotels in remote corners of the world - first in northern Thailand, then the Maldives and now Abu Dhabi - with the price tag of about $50 a serving. The Associated Press traveled to the coffee's production site in the Golden Triangle, an area historically known for producing drugs more potent than coffee, to see the jumbo baristas at work. And to sip the finished product from a dainty demitasse.In the misty mountains where Thailand meets Laos and Myanmar, the coffee's creator cites biology and scientific research to answer the basic question: Why elephants? "When an elephant eats coffee, its stomach acid breaks down the protein found in coffee, which is a key factor in bitterness," said Blake Dinkin, who has spent $300,000 developing the coffee. "You end up with a cup that's very smooth without the bitterness of regular coffee." The result is similar in civet coffee, or kopi luwak, another exorbitantly expensive variety extracted from the excrement of the weasel-like civet. But the elephants' massive stomach provides a bonus. Think of the elephant as the animal kingdom's equivalent of a slow cooker. It takes between 15-30 hours to digest the beans, which stew together with bananas, sugar cane and other ingredients in the elephant's vegetarian diet to infuse unique earthy and fruity flavors, said the 42-year-old Canadian, who has a background in civet coffee. "My theory is that a natural fermentation process takes place in the elephant's gut," said Dinkin. "That fermentation imparts flavors you wouldn't get from other coffees." At the jungle retreat that is home to the herd, conservationists were initially skeptical about the idea. "My initial thought was about caffeine - won't the elephants get wired on it or addicted to coffee?" said John Roberts, director of elephants at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, a refuge for rescued elephants. It now earns 8 percent of the coffee's total sales, which go toward the herd's health care. "As far as we can tell there is definitely no harm to the elephants." Before presenting his proposal to the foundation, Dinkin said he worked with a Canadian-based veterinarian that ran blood tests on zoo elephants showing they don't absorb any caffeine from eating raw coffee cherries. "I thought it was well worth a try because we're looking for anything that can help elephants to make a living," said Roberts, who estimates the cost of keeping each elephant is about $1,000 a month. As for the coffee's inflated price, Dinkin half-joked that elephants are highly inefficient workers. It takes 33 kilograms (72 pounds) of raw coffee cherries to produce 1 kilogram of (2 pounds) Black Ivory coffee. The majority of beans get chewed up, broken or lost in tall grass after being excreted. And, his artisanal process is labor-intensive. He uses pure Arabica beans hand-picked by hill-tribe women from a small mountain estate. Once the elephants do their business, the wives of elephant mahouts collect the dung, break it open and pick out the coffee. After a thorough washing, the coffee cherries are processed to extract the beans, which are then brought to a gourmet roaster in Bangkok. Inevitably, the elephant coffee has become the butt of jokes. Dinkin shared his favorites: Crap-accino. Good to the last dropping. Elephant poop coffee.

As in the case of civet coffee, since the ivory coffee is also associated with the excreta of an animal, naturally there could be revulsion among many coffee lovers regarding the hygienic and safety credentials of the product. But in Asia excreta of animals like cows, buffaloes, elephants etc is not considered repulsive and that may be the basis of developing such products without any hesitation or reservation. Those pioneering the development of ivory coffee justify the high cost in terms of extra ordinarily high losses incurred while "routing" the coffee cherries through the huge guts of the elephant, reported to be of the order of 97%! Animal protectionists are happy with this development because the money generated by this queer coffee drinkers is ploughed back for the welfare of the animal! 


Friday, December 21, 2012


Criticizing multinational companies is a trait deep rooted in India which had seen how Britishers were able to bleed this country of its precious resources during their 300 years of rule. But such an attitude may not be relevant to day because there are many Indian companies which are multinational in character having operations out side the country. Also the framework of WTO regime within which India has sworn to work does not allow unreasonable restrictions on investors from member countries. Recent policy shift allowing foreign retailers to invest in India is a pointer to things to come in future. Under these circumstances the recent announcement by some Indian investors about forming a consortium for buying land in countries like Ethiopia and Uruguay and producing oil seeds and pulses should not come as a surprise to any one. 
The report quoted below does not really say much about any action taken so far but the likelihood of such mega agricultural projects, coming in technology and money starved but land rich countries, can be a distinct possibility. 

A consortium of over half a dozen companies, primarily leading oilseed processors, under the aegis of the Solvent Extractors' Association (SEA), is planning to acquire agricultural land in Latin America (LatAm) for planting edible oilseeds and pulses. Earlier, these companies had plans to acquire land in Ethiopia. But, the worsening law and order, poor infrastructure and complicated government policies in the African country, forced them to move to LatAm, where these issues are well addressed. The oilseed processors' drive assumes significance as these companies failed to expand their business horizontally through backward integration, as a result of corporate farming not permitted in India. Despite over 60 per cent of its edible oil requirements being met through imports, the government of India refuses to grant permission to big corporate players for acquisition of land for self-driven agricultural purposes. While contract farming, involving farmers as stakeholders, is allowed, the model has not worked to anyone's benefit. "We are looking at Uruguay in Latin America for growing soybean and pulses with around 6,000 hectares of land on lease for a couple of years initially. If it proves profitable, we would acquire land in Uruguay for full fledged planting," said B V Mehta, executive director of SEA.Mehta did not divulge the name of the consortium or the companies involved in the deal on fears of land price rise in Uruguay. He, however, confirmed that talks are in advanced stages and the Indian companies would begin soybean planting as early as next season. If successful, this would be the first entry of any Indian companies into Latin America for plantation. SEA has conducted detailed analysis of both countries - Ethiopia and Uruguay. In comparison with Ethiopia, Uruguay is more peaceful, has sustained agriculture policy and advanced infrastructure. In Ethiopia, Indian companies would need to invest on a sustained basis for over a decade to develop the requisite infrastructure, which may or may not be profitable for them in future. Besides, the presence of pirates in neighbouring Somalia has made transportation of oilseeds from Ethiopia a risky affair. Investing in Uruguay, which has agro-climatic conditions similar or even better than Ethiopia, does not entail any of these issues".

In such a future scenario a larger question is whether Indian entrepreneurs will be able to cope up with the investment and working environments in the foreign countries where operations are planned. The recent experience of Indian companies in countries like Maldives, France and others does not inspire much confidence about the success of such ventures. After all India is one of the countries which does not allow large corporate players to buy land for agriculture and if one single reason for the low productivity of agricultural crops is to be cited, it is lack of technology and resources in this sector mostly dominated by millions of impoverished rural farmers. Another assumption by Indian investors in foreign countries that they will be allowed to export their production freely out of the invested country may not turn out to be true because every country invariably tries to meet the domestic food demand before allowing exports. Any how this is an experiment worth trying and learn valuable lessons for similar projects in future.



How about drinking a cup of Donkey's milk? Whether one likes it or not, its availability is a big question mark since there is no organized production of this obscure milk any where in the world. It appears that the only Donkey farm reported to be functioning in Serbia has become a captive one for serving in an exclusive restaurant chain owned by a reputed tennis player. What makes donkey milk so unique is a mystery and the cheese made from this milk commands a ridiculously high price making it beyond the reach of many customers. The only advantage donkey milk enjoys seems to be its similarity to human milk in terms of composition though it is claimed that it has 60 times the concentration of vitamin C compared to other milk varieties. Here is a take on this new product now being promoted in Serbia.

"If you were considering shelling out $500 for a pound of donkey cheese, we're sorry. The world's supply has dried up and Novak Djokovic is to blame. Djokovic, the number-one ranked singles tennis player in the world, has purchased the entire global supply of Pule, a rare cheese produced from donkey milk that can cost over $500 per pound, ABC News reports. Djokovic reportedly bought the annual output of Pule from the world's sole producer, a donkey farm 50 miles west of the Serbian capital Belgrade. Djokovic plans to use the white, crumbly cheese, which recently set the record for the world's most expensive cheese, in a chain of restaurants he's opening. The Serbian farm also produces donkey soap and bottled donkey milk, which is said to contain 60 times more vitamin C than cow's milk, according to the Daily Mail. Cleopatra was rumored to have maintained her beauty by bathing in donkey's milk, the British newspaper notes. To make Pule, farmers must milk donkeys by hand up to three times a day".

Whether donkey milk has any distinct taste or flavor is not clear but since cheese is made after precipitating the protein fraction, most flavor might have been lost in the whey fraction. Also not known is whether one can make specialty cheeses like blue vein cheese and others from this milk. One of the USPs of donkey milk is that composition wise it resembles human milk and there are reports that this was used for infant feeding in some communities during early years. Interestingly this milk has very low fat content, about 0.3 to 1.8% compared to 3.3-3.9 in cow's milk. High content of lactose makes it a more energy yielding milk and those allergic to cow milk proteins can tolerate donkey milk much better. Probably low protein content in donkey milk is the reason for the high cost as cheese yield will be significantly lower. Besides milk yield from an average donkey is no more than 0.2-0.3 liter a day to be milked three times a day adding to the cost of production. If there is a distinct advantage for donkey milk over other varieties of milk, more scientific efforts are needed to improve the quality of the animal stock through breeding.  


Thursday, December 20, 2012


Diagnosis of the reason for any food poisoning episode is an arduous task and especially if it is due in infection by pathogenic bacteria, the uncertainties are manifold. There are half a dozen pathogens that cause food poisoning that include virulent E.coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Clostridium and a few others. Most of the prevailing diagnostic facilities depend on isolating the microorganism and identifying the same before treatment can be decided. The tests involving culturing the microbe and confirmatory procedure will take a few days before the culprit is identified. Modern tests involving DNA finger printing and other alternatives do facilitate the process to some extent. There are ready kits available for microbial testing and they do serve a purpose. New tests are being developed and are in the pipeline which can speed up the results further. According to experts such tests can only serve the limited purpose of detecting the main type of the pathogen while an effective treatment regime can be thought of only when the sub types are also known. Here is a take on this new development that deserves attention by geneticists and pathologists for further refining the techniques to tackle the problem.   . 

"New tests that promise to speed up diagnosis of food poisoning pose an unexpected problem: They could make it more difficult to identify dangerous outbreaks like the one that sickened people who ate a variety of Trader Joe's peanut butter this fall. The new tests could reach medical laboratories as early as next year, an exciting development for patients. They could shave a few days off the time needed to tell whether E. coli, salmonella or other food-borne bacteria caused a patent's illness, allowing faster treatment of sometimes deadly diseases. The problem: These new tests can't detect crucial differences between different subtypes of bacteria, as today's tests can. And that fingerprint is what states and the federal government use to match sick people to a contaminated food. "It's like a forensics lab. If somebody says a shot was fired, without the bullet you don't know where it came from," explained E. coli expert Dr. Phillip Tarr of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects private labs to rapidly adopt these next-generation tests — and warns that what is progress for individual patients could hamper the nation's efforts to keep food safe. Already, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from food-borne illness each year, and 3,000 die. So even before these tests hit the market, the agency is searching for solutions. Unless one is found, the CDC's Dr. John Besser said the tests' unintended consequence could be that  ultimately, more people become sick".

Does this mean that technological progress can change the perception of threat from food pathogens? It is true that every innovation takes time to mature and during the early stages of implementation only glitches are noticed and remedies found for overcoming the same. With massive DNA data available now centrally for instant access and comparison, most of the uncertainties associated with decoding the culprit in a food episode have considerably come down. Seeking for perfection and absolute reliability are continuing pursuits which continuously raise the bar for the pathogens to inflict casualties through food contamination.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012


It is really worrisome for the denizens of this planet that there are still people who are not convinced about the adverse impact of carbon pollution and other green house gases on global weather conditions. The fact that global warming is raising the temperature of this planet to catastrophic levels affecting the rain pattern, drought on set, storms and hurricanes sea level etc does not seem to be registering with people, especially in developed countries who continue with their conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels which by fa is the biggest contributor to disastrous weather changes. Enormous scientific data supporting the linkage between fossil fuel burning and atmospheric warming cannot be ignored any more and the latest Doha round of talks has not helped to bring any sanity to this pressing problem. It is against this context that the efforts of an insensitive government in one of the rich countries, Canada, in snubbing scientific community engaged in research in environmental and climate studies are to be viewed with some alarm. Here is a take on this unfortunate development which deserves to be frowned upon by the whole world.     

Canadian campaigners are calling it a "war on science" – a slow and systematic unravelling of environmental and climate research budgets under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. Hundreds of researchers have lost their jobs, with those remaining reportedly forbidden from talking to the media without a government minder. The government says the cuts are part of a wider, deficit-reducing austerity programme. But green groups instead accuse Harper of trying to stifle criticism of Canada's development of its oil sands fields in Alberta which hold huge reserves. "The climate policy in Canada is actually getting much weaker, and it's no secret that this is all in the name of protecting the tar sands industry … [which] is becoming a major barrier to Canada being a climate leader." - Danielle Droitsch, the Natural Resources Defense Council On Friday, Canada gave the go-ahead for a $15.1bn takeover by Chinese state-owned oil firm, CNOOC, of Canadian company Nexen to develop the fields.
Environmentalists say it is this desire to extract the oil from the tar sands that is driving Canadian government policy. In recent years, Harper has weakened green regulations and pulled Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, the global treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental groups say the government has stepped up its attack on climate scientists in recent months, as seen by some of the measures taken so far: * The elimination of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a body that for years urged the government to take more action on climate change * Slashing funding for more than a dozen research stations that monitor greenhouse gas and other pollutants * The non-profit Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences lost all its government funding since Harper took office in 2006; several other climate study bodies also suffered budget cut * Nature magazine reported that 12,000 government jobs, including thousands of scientists, will be affected by the latest cuts Last week, the Climate Action Network, a leading environmental group, ranked Canada as the worst performer in the developed world when it comes to climate change policies, coming in at 58th out of 61 countries measured. It led Greenpeace to describe Canada as "the poster child of climate inaction". Inside Story Americas asks: How bad is Canada when it comes to climate change? Is Harper's government recklessly fixated on developing its Alberta oil sands?

It was a joke when Americans wanted to spend millions of dollars in India and other poor countries to evolve a design for smokeless "chula", spreading the canard that global warming is more due to smokes coming from traditional chulas than indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels! Of course a point that needs to be considered in this context is that smoke does contribute to human ill health over a long period, though it is doubtful whether the Americans are really concerned about the health of poor India house wife who spends hours together in front of such chulas under utterly humiliating living conditions! Similarly India's millions of free roaming cattle which are normally not culled, are also being blamed for global warming because of the high content of green gases supposed to be emitted during farting! Even if there is some truth in this stand, it it not the responsibility of the rich nations to reduce their own emissions and then demand action by poor nations to make attempts to reduce green house gas emissions?. Sacrifice seems to be a one way phenomenon in the parlor of wealthy countries, the word equity never being in their lexicon! Peace on this planet can never be assured unless there is equity in what ever humans do to avert future tragedies.



It is but natural that all sovereign countries in the world are concerned about the health and safety of their citizens and putting in place measures to ensure that, is their unquestionable right. That conceded, is there any justification for a country like the US to take decisions unilaterally to put many importers from other countries, especially from the third world, in difficulties by raising the bar too much. Latest to emerge is the new rule that requires every importer from other countries to register their facilities once every two years which is a laborious process. When quality and safety assurance systems like HACCP, ISO 14000, SAP etc are now available for application in all countries, is it not possible if such accreditation and inspection are insisted upon for products originating from each country? How is it possible for small scale exporters from India to go to the US and spend their time and money to deal with the bureaucratic set up there entrusted with registration. This is definitely a non-tariff barrier to put the exporters from developing countries in a disadvantage and must be referred to WTO. Here is a take on this new development which will have far reaching implication on Indian exports.

"The US may ban import of Indian food and dietary supplements if food companies fail to renew their Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registration by the end of this year.  "The US administration, over-cautious about probable acts of terrorism, has made it mandatory for all facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food for human or animal consumption in the US to register with the US FDA," said an official of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), a government body which overlooks exports of agri and food products in the country.  The companies will then have to renew their registration every two years to continue their shipment to the US. Food from an unregistered foreign facility would be held at the port of entry unless the FDA directs it to be moved to a secure custody.  The new rule effective January 1, 2013, can create a non-tariff barrier for Indian food products companies, which exported more than $3 billion worth of food to the US in 2011.  The fresh registration rules will be applicable to all food products, all processed and manufactured products, and animal products. Under the new Food Safety and Modernisation Act (FSMA), FDA is to establish a "reliable system" that uses third-party audits conducted either by foreign governments or other third parties to help ensure food safety for food destined for the US. It will help FDA conduct investigations and surveillance operations in response to food-related emergencies". 

There is one aspect about which food industry in India must concern itself, that is the traceability question that haunts food safety agencies world over. Probably Americans are more concerned about the logistics involved in pin pointing the source of a food poisoning episode as and when they occur in there. Present manufacturing systems currently prevalent in most countries do not allow such investigations to proceed too far when there is a blind alley while pursuing the origin and credentials of many suppliers of various ingredients used in the manufacture of a food in a particular factory. It is better Indian food industry collectively thinks about the "one step backward and one step forward" strategy to document the full particulars of immediate suppliers of raw materials and ingredients and immediate buyers of their products. If every player follows this strategy traceability becomes easier though it will take some time to complete the investigation by working through the chain so formed. APEDA which is doing an excellent job in its role as an export facilitator must address this issue more seriously.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


During the last two decades, role of fish in the diet assumed critical importance because it is a rich source of Omega-3 fats considered crucial for preventing heart disease and other related disorders commonly encountered in modern society. Besides, unlike red meat fish meat is not a source of cholesterol making it safe for regular consumption. However the oceans where marine fish breed, are getting heavily polluted with all types chemicals, the most dangerous being Mercury which is known to cause damage to the brain if consumed beyond a limit. Presently an upper limit of 1 ppm is prescribed in the US while many other countries have fixed the tolerable limit at 0.5 ppm. Recent reports implicating Mercury even at lower limits in human disorders call for a rethinking about the safety limit of this toxic mineral. Here is a take on this new revelation which cannot be brushed away that easily.

"Scientists say that consuming fish may be more hazardous to your health than you think, according to new reports published this week. The reports, produced by the Biodiversity Research Institute and an international coalition of environmental campaign groups called the Zero Mercury Working Group, say that mercury contamination of seafood is not only on the rise across the globe, but that "smaller traces of the toxic metal may be enough to cause restricted brain development or other health problems for humans who eat them." "The more we look at mercury, the more toxic it is," David Evers, the executive director of BRI, told the Portland Press Herald. "Threats from mercury are greater at lower levels than we have thought in the past." As the Global Post notes, scientists have long warned consumers about the potential dangers of mercury in fish and other seafood. However, the new reports have revealed that the guidelines for safe seafood consumption in place in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere may now be out of date. "Levels of [mercury] exposure that are defined as safe by the official limits, are actually having adverse effects," environmental health scientist Dr. Edward Groth, who authored one of the three reports, said at a web conference, according to the Post."These are not trivial effects, these are significant effects. There does appear to be evidence now, fairly persuasive evidence, that adverse effects occur from normal amounts of seafood consumption," Groth, who is an adviser to the World Health Organization, continued".

Mercury is thrown into the atmosphere by burning coal in power plants and when the atmospheric mercury is absorbed by the water in the ocean, algae accumulates the same in their cells which then is passed on to fish which feasts on it. When such fish reaches the dining table, mercury is passed on to the humans through their foods. So far consumers and the safety agencies were sure that most fish varieties harvested to day have far less than 1 ppm, except in case of tile fish or Sword fish and crabs which may contain up to 1.5 ppm. The new finding that even low levels of mercury can adversely affect the functions of the human brain is alarming and scary. Unfortunately coal happens to be the most abundantly available cheap source of energy and economic compulsions prevent banning coal powered power plants every where in the world. What is the option before mankind under such circumstances? Banning fish consumption altogether? Not a feasible option. May be curtailing the fish consumption to levels just enough to meet the needs for Omega-3 fats is a possibility but will it be acceptable to the consumers and the fish industry in general. Technological intervention to trap the mercury in the smoke that is spewed by the power plants is another alternative that can be considered.  


Monday, December 17, 2012


"Taxing your way to health" is a favorite slogan for may health purists, the idea being to make unhealthy foods too costly for the consumers to buy in the market. It was Denmark, one of the more affluent countries coming under the umbrella of European Union which was the first nation to introduce a fat tax on products containing more than a certain percentage of fat in the product marketed by the industry. But surprisingly it withdrew this new tax recently after coming to the conclusion that such punitive taxes just do not work. A larger question that remains unanswered is whether the tax policy, tried out in a country with no borders as that exist between independent countries, could have been more successful in any other country? For example, what would have been the result if such a policy was tried out in India where consumers cannot go to a neighboring country like China that easily and which is the world capital of "cheap" consumer goods, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka or Nepal? Probably it would have had a better chance of success. Here is a report about the experience of Denmark in imposing a fat tax and later withdrawing it.

"About a year ago, the Danish government tested out a policy never before seen in the world. It implemented an across-the-board tax on all foods with a saturated fat content above 2.3 percent, with the hopes of reducing consumption of unhealthy foods. But it didn't quite work that way. Some Danes did indeed switch to lower fat cheeses  and dairy products, The Wall Street Journal's Clemens Bomsdorf reports. But a lot of them simply began to do their grocery shopping internationally, heading to countries that didn't levy a fine on fat: There is little evidence the tax impacted consumers financially, but it did spark a shift in consumer habits. Many Danes have bought lower-cost alternatives, or in some cases hopped the border to Germany, where prices are roughly 20% lower, or to Sweden. >The Sky supermarket located in northern Germany was one company benefiting from the trend. Last week, more than half the cars in the crowded parking lot had Danish license plates. >"We did not use to buy cheese here, but the price difference for our favorite type is now more than 30%," Anitha Nissen said, while helping her husband load groceries into their silver Suzuki. The Danish couple now crosses the border three or four times a year to stock up on goods. The Danish government announced Saturday it would abolish the fat tax as part of budget negotiations there. Denmark's experience suggests one of the big challenges with regulating unhealthy foods: People can always switch to an alternative, that's a bit less expensive".

There are two consumer items in the world which are taxed heavily-Cigarette and Alcohol but what has been the experience? It is true that neither consumption of alcohol nor cigarette has disappeared though a few were forced to reduce the consumption for economic reasons but is the number of those stopping the consumption significant enough to make an impact? This point requires in-depth analysis to shape any future options mankind may think about in tackling these undesirable consumption trends. Besides fat, other food ingredients like sugar and salt are also under scrutiny as they are implicated in many human disorders and a coherent action plan is the need of the hour for overcoming such food related health contingencies in future. Education at an early stage regarding the adverse consequences of consuming unhealthy foods, social pressure, public policies and incentives by the government may still have a chance to de-addict people from unhealthy practices.


Sunday, December 16, 2012


During the recent discussion on the new FDI policy being implemented by Government of India one of the strong arguments used to support the influx of foreign retailing giants was that such a policy would help the farmers of this country to get a better price for their commodities. Here is a contradiction of the above assertion coming from the very same country which has some of the biggest retail giants based there. The sum and substance of the report below is that retail giants will always squeeze their suppliers whether farmers or processors as their focus is is to cultivate the consumer with lowest prices ever possible.   

"When ConAgra ponied up about $5 billion for St. Louis-based Ralcorp this week, the Omaha-based conglomerate did something that food companies have been doing for a while: It got a lot bigger. ConAgra Foods Inc., which produces some 60 brand name products — everything from Slim Jim sausage snacks to Manwich mixes to Wesson cooking oil — will now become one of the largest food companies in the world, with about $18 billion in sales, up from $12.3 billion in the fiscal year ended on May 11. Globally speaking, that would put ConAgra among the top 20 food companies in the world, up from its current spot of 31 and well ahead of food juggernauts General Mills and Kellogg. But ConAgra's new neighbors on the list of global food-and-beverage big shots probably won't be there for long. In a turbulent food marketplace that has struggled in recent years, companies are trying to out-big each other — or, at least, redefine what they are, by splitting, spinning off and window-shopping for each other's discards".

Also well known is that in countries like the UK and the US, less than 30% of the consumer dollar goes to the farmers while 70% is gobbled up by the retailer who is a glorified super middle man! Consider the situation that is prevalent in India where farmer gets about 70% of the consumer rupee, at least in two organized sectors like sugarcane and milk. A million dollar question that deserves an honest answer is whether foreign retailer chains would squeeze the already famished farmer of this country through strategies they have perfected in different wealthy countries. No wonder that progressive states like New York are coming out increasingly against such monolithic giants whose agenda is solely to increase their margin by what ever strategy it takes with no consideration for the development of the country where they are allowed to operate.


Saturday, December 15, 2012


Though 80% of total sweeteners produced in the world comes from sugarcane, sugar beets and corn starch, the so called non-caloric sweeteners, both synthetic as well as natural are rapidly catching up with the former, growing at a frenetic pace. This multibillion industry boasts of a few well established synthetic sweeteners like Aspartame, Saccharine and Acesulfame, besides semi synthetic ones like Sucralose and Erythritol  while Stevia and Monk fruit represent the natural ones. Of all the non-caloric sweeteners, Stevia glycosides extracted from the leaves of Stevia plant seem to have created a sustained interest among the consumers, probably because it is truly natural. What is holding back Stevia glycosides from overwhelming the food processing industry so far is the bitter and licorcie like after taste noticed in most commercial preparations available in the market. This drawback is reported to have been neutralized by recent development of technology to separate the sweetest component of the glycoside cocktail present in the crude extract, viz Rebaudiside A glycoside (RebA) which has practically no after taste. Here is a take on this new development with some implications for the food industry world over, trying to create products with low sugar to cater to diabetic and weight watching consumers.

"Tate & Lyle (TATYY.PK), the British $5.7 billion market cap global ingredients and food solutions provider recently introduced Tasteva ™, a stevia product the company had been developing for over two years. Tate & Lyle tested over 80 stevia extracts to understand the sensory profile and characteristics. It then isolated certain steviol glycosides to optimize the sweetness that did not have any of the bitter or licorice aftertaste that has been associated with early stevia products. The company claims that feedback from customers who have tried Tasteva shows that the product delivers a clean sweetness and a clear taste advantage over Reb A 97 and other stevia ingredients. According toJeremy Thompson, Director of Natural Sweeteners Product Management at Tate & Lyle, these advantages had been demonstrated across a wide range of food applications, including beverages and dairy. The company also found that Tasteva can cut the sugar levels in colas by 50% with no bitter aftertaste and no need for masking agents. This is a big step in the evolution of stevia because up till now cola manufactures were only able to reduce the sugar levels 30% before the taste was affected. Tate & Lyle sees Tasteva not just for beverages but for food manufacturers that are seeking sweetness from a natural source. Tate and Lyle introduced Tasteva Stevia Sweetener in Latin America, as part of Food Ingredients South America in São Paulo, and plans for more regional roll-outs in 2013".

With the metabolic syndrome disease, diabetes spreading like a wild fire and more than half the population in the developed countries being either obese or over weight, time has come to sideline the nutritive sugars, if possible, in favor of non-caloric counter parts and Stevia and Monk fruit fit into this bill. Of course whether natural sugar as known to day, will ever be replaced completely by one or more of the alternative choices is a question begging for an answer. However considering that no perfect match has been found so far to match natural sugar in terms of its chemical, physical and functional properties, it is unlikely that sugarcane, sugar beets or corn derived sugars will disappear from this planet for the next 100 years! At best industry may switch to blends of natural sugars and non-nutritive sweeteners for developing new products with untainted sweetness and the proportion to day is 50% to 70% of sugar in such blends which may come down progressively in the coming years with renewed research efforts.


Friday, December 14, 2012


Caffeine, which is both a stimulant as well as an addictive substance, is present in beverage crops like Coffee, Tea and Cocoa. As consumption of these beverages increases the alertness of the consumer, there are millions who take them regularly every day though medical experts and health pundits frown upon its consumption by pregnant women and children. According to present thinking an intake beyond 300 mg a day may carry potential health risks for many people and this maximum recommended level is slowly being reduced to 180 mg per day per an adult. Recent reports about some deaths in the US being ascribed to consuming Caffeine loaded energy drinks highlight the piquant situation in which safety agencies find themselves. In absence of scientific evidence that implicates Caffeine as an unsafe food constituent and safe levels at which it can be ingested not arrived at, it becomes difficult to clamp a ban on the use of Caffeine in formulated foods and beverages. This situation seems to be encouraging many processors to use Caffeine as an ingredient in new formulations claiming some or the other beneficial effect for such products. Here is a take on this evolving situation which is receiving attention world over.

In light of new reports linking 5-Hour Energy drinks to several recent deaths, sleep-deprived consumers may need to find another source of packaged vigor. PepsiCo's Frito-Lay has an unlikely alternative: Cracker Jacks. The company is launching a new line of the sugary treats — aptly named "Cracker Jack'd" — that will contain caffeine, Advertising Age reports. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has previously battled such consumer products companies as MillerCoors Brewing Company and Airborne, claims the caffeinated Cracker Jacks violate federal food laws. "Boxes of Cracker Jack are famous for having a toy surprise inside," CSPI said in a Wednesday statement. "But what parent suspects that Cracker Jack might come with a surprising dose of a mildly addictive stimulant drug?" CSPI warned that if the government doesn't crack down on the upcoming Frito-Lay product, it could "set off a new craze in which manufacturers add caffeine to more and more varieties of foods and beverages."

Those who oppose use of Caffeine, often considered as a drug, cite the present US Rules which allow this chemical only in Cola beverages which may contain about 72 mg per a serving size of 12 fluid ounce. Unfortunately there is no mention about using Coffee solids or extracts in any food preparation which loophole is being exploited by the industry and there are such products already in the market providing more than 70 mg per a 2 Oz serving size. The argument by the industry that these products are targeted at adult consumers or the level of Caffeine is already declared on the label cannot justify putting in the market such potentially harmful food products. Probably it is time for safety agencies to revisit presence of Caffeine, either used as a chemical ingredient or through coffee solids and extracts and make the law relating to this more explicit.


Thursday, December 13, 2012


Bread making was an art or skill till about 5 decades ago. But enormous strides made by bakery scientists since then in developing more and efficient technologies and reducing the time required to make high quality bread products have resulted in taking guess work and gut feeling out of reckoning. But there is one area where little headway has been made and this is with regard to extending the shelf life of the product without adversely affecting its eating quality. Now comes the news that a bakery company in the US has come out with a claim that it can make bread with 60 days life! Here are some details about the above claim and in absence of much technical data it is very difficult to vouchsafe for the veracity of the claim.

"One of the biggest threats to bread is mould. As loaves are usually wrapped in plastic, any water in the bread that evaporates from within is trapped and makes the surface moist. This provides excellent growing conditions for Rhizopus stolonifer, the fungus that leads to mould. In normal conditions, bread will go mouldy in around 10 days. But an American company called Microzap says it has developed a technique that will keep the bread mould free for two months. At its laboratory on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, chief executive Don Stull showed off the long, metallic microwave device that resembles an industrial production line. Originally designed to kill bacteria such as MRSA and salmonella, the researchers discovered it could kill the mould spores in bread in around 10 seconds. "We treated a slice of bread in the device, we then checked the mould that was in that bread over time against a control, " he explained. "And at 60 days it had the same mould content as it had when it came out of the oven."

Making a product last long is not a difficult task if the sensory quality of the food product is not kept in focus. There are a few chemical preservatives available to day that can inhibit the growth of most microorganisms but such methods cannot prevent chemical or physical changes that occur in all foods at moisture levels beyond 2% at temperatures above zero degree centigrade. In a product like bread with a moisture content of 40% and under ambient conditions staling is bound to take place and according to present state of knowledge there are no fool proof technology yet to prevent staling. stale bread is characterized by crumbling and powdering with the texture of the product getting lost progressively in a matter of few hours. The new method reported above involves treatment of the packed bread with microwave radiation which is supposed to destroy fungal spores but whether it will affect the typical texture of bread adversely is not clear. Retrogradation of starch grains in the bread during storage is a reversible phenomenon and probably bread preserved with the method reported above may regain its texture if it is reheated under optimum conditions in a kitchen microwave oven.