Sunday, September 30, 2012


In spite of enormous data accumulating against GM foods, there does not appear to be any remorse on the part of the "creators of these phantoms" regarding the consequences and adverse impact of widespread promotion of GM foods through canards, half truths and untruths on future of humanity. The philosophy of the GM food "Warriors" seems to be "to make  hay while sun shines"! They do not seem to be least bothered regarding the loss to the consumers and farmers in terms of money and health by forcing them to condescend to GM foods. The vice-like grip GM food lobbyists has on national governments, especially in a country like the US is nothing short of being scandalous. Though many experts watching helplessly the onslaught of GM foods predict that these genetically mutilated versions of food might not last beyond ten years from now, what about the damage already caused by such reckless use of this Frankenstein technology on humans and the environment during the lat twenty years? Here is an interesting critique on this vital issue that gives deep insight into the wily schemes of the GM food lobby.

"Meanwhile, the science, like a child hiding under the bed while his parents are throwing dishes at each other, is trying to get someone's attention. Numerous studies have concluded that GM crops not only fall short of their agronomic claims, such as higher yields and reduced chemical use, but they also pose significant health risks in the form of toxins, allergens and inferior nutrition. A recent study conducted in Russia, also found that hamsters fed Monsanto's GM soy for two years gave birth to infertile offspring (in the third generation), caused increased rates of infant mortality, and stunted growth. It also caused strange pathologies in some of these animals, like hair growing inside their mouths. The infertility finding was particularly troubling. Most of the testing, conducted by industry and accepted by the FDA for approval, did not follow the animals for three generations. Given these kinds of potential harms, are you ready to feed this stuff to your family? Speaking of children, Monsanto recently sponsored the release of a children's activity book entitled, "Look Closer at Biotechnology." Apparently they want to do what they can to ensure that today's children won't have the same objection to this type of food that many of their parents do. According to the work book, which is filled with games and puzzles and cartoon-like pictures of children with happy faces, "You will see that biotechnology is being used to figure out how to: 1) grow more food; 2) help the environment; and 3) grow more nutritious food that improves our health." What could possibly be wrong with that? If only that were true. According to Michael Pollan, GM foods will disappear within a decade. Why? Because they do not live up to their claims and they do not provide any value, only risk, to consumers. "We've yet to see the GM product that the computer people would call the 'killer app'." The whole industry is being propped up by Monsanto's incestuous relationship with the government, and according to Pollan, the products themselves will prove to be a failed experiment that simply didn't live up to its promise. "In ten years we won't be talking about it [GM]. It hasn't been that successful." In other words, if there is any justice remaining in this country, the whole thing will just collapse like a house of cards." 
It sounds reasonable to assume that the GM food technology will wither away in due course because of the experience of millions of farmers who fail to attain yields boasted by the giant transnationals who developed these technologies under the field conditions. But if their clout on policy makers is any indication, GM food industry is becoming bolder by the day and according to recent reports, a 100% GM corn is about to be launched and promoted in the US market by world's most powerful retailing chain with "enticement and seduction"! If such a situation continues, the day is too far off when farmers will not be allowed to plant any thing not genetically modified! The startling revelation by one of the scientific multi generation studies recently definitely throw sufficient evidence of health damage by GM foods, at least in laboratory animals. All scientific evidence supporting safety of GM foods seems to have been based on single or two generation studies. All national governments are duty bound to stop any further research efforts to develop genetically modified foods, especially those which are transgenic in nature.


Saturday, September 29, 2012


During the last few years carbonated soft drinks and other sugary beverages have seen their market progressively shrinking or the growth rate very disappointing. The most pressing issue vis-a-vis their consumption is the presence of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which was linked to development of obesity and health disorders, though no clinching evidence to support this accusation has surfaced yet. Whether it is HFCS or natural sugar, nutritive sweeteners if consumed abundantly can cause undesirable health consequences against which consumers need to be cautious. The very basis of the policy of New York civic authorities to ban sale of over sized sugary beverages is based on the perception that citizens must be restrained at least indirectly from over consuming these "fattening" drinks. Another contentious issue is presence of caffeine in some products like Cola beverages which is claimed to be an intoxicant that can cause damage to children and pregnant women folks. The new breed of drinks being marketed by the Energy Drinks sub-sector of beverage industry has escaped the regulatory regime, especially with regard to caffeine and some of the other ingredients used and its surprising growth is some what a mystery. While the caffeine content is about 3 times more in Energy Drinks as compared to that in soft drinks, the products are usually supplemented with Taurine and B-vitamins and the target consumers are athletes and sports persons, obviously suggesting that energy drinks are helpful in restoring energy and boosting the performance. Though these drinks were having a free run without being challenged by the food safety authorities during the last few years, they are now coming under the scanner after the reported death of a girl due to arrhythmic heart failure after consuming energy drink. Here is a take on these emerging developments.

Energy drinks remain a tiny part of the carbonated soft drinks market, representing just 3.3 percent of sales volume, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest. But while soda consumption has flagged in recent years, energy drinks are growing by leaps and bounds. Last year, sales volume for energy drinks rose by nearly 17 percent, with the top three companies - Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar - each logging double-digit gains, according to Beverage Digest. The drinks are often marketed at sporting events such as surfing and skateboarding, popular among younger people. The levels of caffeine in the drinks have raised worries. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration caps the amount of caffeine in soda to 0.02 percent, there is no such limit for energy drinks. "The FDA could easily say energy drinks are soft drinks," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which advocates for food safety. But he noted that the FDA cap was established about 60 years ago, long before energy drinks came to the market. In general, the level of caffeine in energy drinks (160 milligrams in 16 ounces) is about half that in the same amount of brewed Starbucks coffee (320 milligrams), according to CSPI. But compared with soda such as Coca-Cola,energy drinks have more than three times as much caffeine. That could be problematic for younger consumers who may guzzle them without realizing how much caffeine they're consuming, Jacobson said. The other risk is that kids would drink it at parties along with alcohol, he said. As for the other ingredients energy drinks often tout - such as taurine or B vitamins - Jacobson said it's mostly for marketing purposes and that they serve no real function. "They say it serves as a detoxifying agent or that it improves mental performance," he said. "That's malarkey."

Justification for marketing such drinks is based on the fact that brewed coffee provides much more caffeine per drink compared to that ingested through energy drink. What makes the energy rinks more risky is that the major target group is youngsters who rarely take coffee and volume of energy drink consumed tends to be high frequently. Total quantity of caffeine consumed via energy drink could be significantly higher, especially during sports events and athletic gatherings and therefore some sort of regulation needs to be put in place sooner than later. Also claims made because of addition of Taurine and B-vitamins do not make any sense, as they are not based on science or clinical evidence.


Thursday, September 27, 2012


Why is that nutrition experts recommend including brightly colored fruits and vegetables in the regular diet? Because these plant crops are rich in antioxidant type of phytochemicals considered helpful in protecting human health from many diseases. One of the most important discoveries in medical science is that due to generation of free radicals with high oxidation potential in the cellular system, there can be many dangers like cancer of different types and if these free radicals are promptly neutralized such risks can be averted. The role of antioxidant is to "kill" these radicals and make them innocuous. Though there are many proven antioxidants present in almost all foods in varying concentrations, their absorption into the blood stream is constrained by their inefficiency in getting across the Gastrointestinal membrane. Recent attempts by a group of scientists in the UK to make these oxygen scavenging phytochemicals more efficient in their activity are being hailed as a breakthrough with far reaching positive implications. Here is a take on this exciting new development in the health food.

"What if you could take a naturally occurring compound and make it stronger so that it could make food last longer, create better flame-retardant material, and possibly develop a cancer- fighting drug? Research chemists at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center believe they may have found an answer to this question. They took a naturally occurring phenolic-based compound and enzymatically polymerized it; this chemical process basically means the compound is reacted to form a long chain of repeating units. "As you make this polymer chain longer, it becomes a more potent anti-oxidant than what you actually find in nature," said Nicole Favreau Farhadi, an NSRDEC research chemist. "(Due to the conjugation of this polymer, it) is more potent than its naturally occurring monomer." Roughly 10 years ago, this process began to be used with epicatechin, an anti-oxidant found in green tea, white tea, red wine, and elsewhere in nature. Research chemists at Natick thought they could use this same tactic for other compounds, such as hydroxytyrosol, one of the most potent antioxidants found in olive oil.  Polymerization in this way is incredibly important because it is relatively simple, now that the process has been formulated, which means polymerizing on a mass scale is feasible. "We reported in two patents the homo- and co-polymerization of hydroxytyrosol for possible application as an anti-oxidant for food, maybe even cancer drugs," said Ferdinando Bruno, also an NSRDEC research chemist. 'Anti-oxidant' seems to be a catch phrase used in magazines, news programs, diets, and even on food labels and elsewhere. This trend may be warranted, though, as free radicals tend to cause more harm than we realize." "When we talk about anti-oxidants as (they) pertain to food, oxygen just wreaks havoc on it," Favreau said. "If you can eliminate or lessen the effect of oxygen on the food, then (it will) last longer. That's why anti-oxidants are so important. You've probably seen how we have oxygen scavengers in rations. The contents of these packets bind with the oxygen, therefore blocking reaction with the compounds in food that cause degradation."

As a chemical reaction is needed to convert the naturally occurring phenolic compounds into more effective antioxidant, the product so formed is considered a synthetic chemical and for use in food products same has to be tested clinically to prove its safety. Probably such efforts in getting approval is time consuming and expensive, it is unlikely that these new generation plant based antioxidants will ever find an entry into foods. The organization which developed this process must strive to get government funding to prove the safety of the products for use in food products. Of course the alternate and easy option to use these polymerized products in non-food industry may be more attractive as it does not involve any elaborate safety assessment.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012


With almost all countries in the world seriously worried about food inflation which causes upward movement of prices of most foods in the market, India seems to be a unique exception, with one of its ministers "boldly" stating  that rising inflation is a happy trend to be welcomed. His reasoning is that high consumer prices would bring higher returns to the poor farmers of the country! Can it be true? Can a responsible government favor a particular segment of the Society to the detriment of others? Is it alright if consumers are forced to pay high prices to the every day foods required to lead a normal life? What type of a philosophy is this? One can understand such a position taken by a farmers' lobby but not by a responsible government spokesman. Such utterances make the efforts of the government in subsidizing every agricultural crop grown in the country appear insincere while making the so called free market economics based policy a laughing stock! Here is a glimpse into this ridiculous situation created by this minister through his irresponsible utterances. 

Union Minister for Steel Beni Prasad Verma seems to have made a  habit out of courting controversies. His latest comments are not just likely to spell trouble for the Congress, but also will not go down well with the Samajwadi Party, that supports the UPA government at the centre. Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function in Barabanki, near Lucknow, on Sunday, the minister said he was happy with the rising prices of these food items as it will benefit farmers. "Dal, atta, vegetables have all become expensive. The more the prices rise the better it is. I am very happy with inflation," he said.  Clarifying his remark today he said, "I am happy when farmers' income increases. High food prices good for farmers." He added he was sticking to what he had said.  Mr Beni Prasad Verma's  inflation rationale has been slammed by the Opposition. "The Congress leaders are not affected by inflation at all. They are turning a blind eye to what inflation is doing to people. Hence they are saying senseless things like farmers are benefitting from inflation. This shows the Congress' mentality," BJP Shahnawaz Hussain said. The Congress today tried to distance itself from Mr Verma's comments. "We put a stop on interest rate to control inflation. You should know that inflation is a matter of concern. I will offer sweets to him (Beni Prasad Verma) and ask him to keep his words sweet."

One wonders whether this minister, after enjoying power and perks for many years so freely bestowed by the government has forgotten whether he is still living in India where there is a wide disparity between what farmer receives and what consumers pay in the market. It is an established fact that the market situation in India is neither farmer -friendly not consumer-friendly, with almost 40-200% of the consumer price being swallowed by the middlemen through monopolistic and unfair trade means. Against such a background how can one expect the farmer to be benefited by high ruling market prices. The ones who will be benefited are the middlemen who act as a conduit for flow of food materials between the producer and the end user. It is fortunate that the views expressed by this insensitive politician are not shared by others in the government!  


Sunday, September 23, 2012


The reputation of India as a lethargic, foot dragging mammoth, incapable of taking vital decisions in time or executing developmental projects with 100-500% time and cost overrun, is increasingly being felt world over. More importantly a sense of frustration and desperation is slowly creeping among the masses because of the paralysis visible in the government circles in spite of the vast potential the country has in scaling new heights and achieving unparalleled laurels. Take for instance the case of food quality and safety related administration in the country. The following excerpts from a recent report about the travails of the industry and the consumers in the food sector due to ill panned moves by the government to steamroll its callous policy on the country without anticipating its adverse impact, amply illustrate the above point.

Twenty-one Members of the Parliament from Tamil Nadu have signed a petition urging the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad to address "shortcomings" in the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSA) 2006. The Act established the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSA) as a statutory body coming under the Health Ministry for laying down science-based standards for articles of food and regulating manufacturing, processing, distribution, sale and import of food. The petition was the result of a campaign undertaken by Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants Association, which met all the 40 MPs from the State at New Delhi recently and highlighted the adverse impact the Act could have on farmers and small food business operators. Addressing a press conference in Madurai on Tuesday, association president S.P. Jeyapragasam said that rules and regulations of the FSA were heavily influenced by multinational companies and domestic corporates who dominated the 123-member committee formed to frame the standards under the Act. He also noted that this committee was dissolved by the Supreme Court on February 2011. Even M.S. Swaminathan, the Rajya Sabha MP known widely as the 'Father of the Green Revolution,' whom the delegation met in New Delhi, concurred with the traders' opinion and voiced his concern with the Union Health Minister. The Act, which replaced the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, levied penalties in the range of Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh besides prescribing jail terms ranging between six months to 10 years. Further, it had retained the standards set in 1954 for most of agricultural food produce though farming practices and the environment had undergone a sea change since then. "While we welcome the intentions of the Act to provide quality and hygienic food to the public and coming down heavily on adulterated food, its rules and regulations are impractical. The Act was framed in 2006 but notified in 2011 and yet, the Government did not utilise the five intervening years to crate awareness among the business community." He also noted that Tamil Nadu was being considered as being in the forefront of implementing the Act by officials in New Delhi even as several States were yet to establish the offices for implementing agencies. Further, Mr. Jeyapragasam said, the standards of food produce would surely vary from region to region and sometimes within the region itself depending upon rains or lack of it, fixing one quality for all was not a practical move. The association also urged the Central Government to rectify the various "anomalies" in the Food Safety Act 2006.

No one doubts the intention of the policies and objectives of the Government agency concerned. However sheer callousness, shoddy drafting, lack of understanding about the dynamics of Indian food industry landscape, inebriated by the enormous power conferred on the agency, ill qualified people doing the job and the mindless insensitivity to the sufferings of the citizens have created a situation which may result in eventual collapse of the micro enterprises and small and medium scale food industries. What would be the consequences of such an eventuality? Probably people in Delhi have neither the time nor the inclination to think about such "mundane" things as they are more busy "handling" the various "scams" created during the last one decade!



Innovative development that led to the emergence of nano technology has been hailed as a major break through and almost all industries including the food processing sector jumped into the band wagon without properly assessing the long term consequences of its wide scale application on the human health and environment. One of the issues that merited serious attention is about the consequences of the easy transit of nano particles through the cellular system and no clear picture has still emerged whether this would pose real dangers to human beings. Also of importance is the likely impact these nano particles of hundreds of chemicals released eventually into the environment on agriculture and animal world. In an alarming report which came out recently it is claimed that nano technology based fertilizers and nutrient products do affect the performance of plants like Soybean adversely which is a serious concern. Here is more information on this alarming development.

"Manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs), manmade materials with at least one dimension less than 100 nm, are increasingly used in consumer goods (e.g., sunscreens, fuels, and paints), and thus are entering the atmosphere and soil. Some MNMs stress the cells of plants, causing growth inhibition, MNM uptake, DNA damage, and death. For instance, hydroponically grown plants (i.e., plants grown in mineral nutrient solutions) are damaged when they accumulate some MNMs. Also, some MNM-exposed soil microbial communities become less diverse. Therefore, soil-grown food crops could be impacted by MNMs, although there is a lack of direct evidence. We studied soybean growth from planting through seed production in farm soil to which MNMs were added. For two high-production MNMs, we observed the bio-accumulation of MNM metals and the cessation of symbiotic nitrogen fixation".

The tendency for these nano particles to accumulate in water and soil and pass into agricultural system is really alarming. Added to this some plants show that their cells can retain some of the nano particles and such bio-accumulation interferes with normal functioning of many growth functions of the plant. Most alarming is that nitrogen fixation which typical in the case of leguminous plants is interfered with which may have far reaching implications on soil fertility restoration. These aspects need further critical study and earlier this is done better it will be for the planet. With practically no control or oversight regarding the use of nano technology by many industries, the devastating effect of increased contamination of food and environment is only a matter of time!


Sunday, September 16, 2012


Water is becoming more and more precious with each passing day because of scarcity caused by global warming and reckless ground water extraction. While in many developed countries citizens are "showered" with abundant water, most poor countries have to live with the reality that even the minimum recommended water need of their citizens remains a dream! A country like India lives perpetually short of water even for agriculture, with more than 80% of water requirement being met by rains which have a tendency to play the "hide and seek" game and if rains fail the whole economy get adversely impacted. In the urban landscape, each town or city is supposed to provide protected water supply to its residents. Here again most citizens consider themselves lucky even if good water comes through their taps at least once in a day, that too for a couple of hours! Talking about rural folks, water is like a mirage and whatever is available cannot be considered potable making them vulnerable to multitude of water borne diseases through out their life. What a fate! It is in this context that a recent report claiming the design of a pure water producing solar based contraption that can supply at least 5 liters of pure water a day, even from sea water, is kindling some hope for these folks. This low cost solar water still can be a boon to millions of villagers who are fortunate to have some source of water in their area. Have a close look at this gadget from the report quoted below.

"As a graduate student, Italian designer Gabrielle Diamanti's travels exposed him to the global water crisis and the issue became a fascination for him. Fortunately he's been able to use his skills as a designer to create something that could make a big difference for those with little access to clean water. The Eliodomestico is an open source design for what is essentially a solar still, but with thoughtful details to make it even more functional and easy to use for those in coastal areas where salt water is abundant, but fresh water isn't. Technology doesn't always have to be complicated, sometimes the simplest materials and concepts are the best. The Eliodomestico works like an upside-down coffee percolator to desalinate salt water. The ceramic oven has three main pieces. The top black container is where the salt water is poured. As the sun heats the salt water and creates steam, the pressure that builds pushes the steam through a pipe in the middle section. The steam condenses against the lid of the basin at the bottom and then drips into the basin, where it is collected. The oven can make about five liters of fresh water a day. The design can be built for about $50 and although Diamanit used terracotta for his prototypes, local craftsmen can use whatever materials are most abundant where they live. The basin is also designed to be comfortably carried on the head, which is common in sub-Saharan Africa and other places around the world. Solar still technology is old and not uncommon to find in developing nations, but it's often on a much larger scale, like at hospitals or water desalination plants that serve entire communities. Diamanti wanted to create this open source project so that individual families could have access to the same desalination process in a simple-to-use format".
Desalination of sea water has become a viable proposition and commercial desalination plants using reverse osmosis process are operating in many countries. However distillation using solar heat and recovering pure water for use in house holds can be a boon as the processing cost will be very low. Besides it is green technology with no carbon foot print of any consequence. The non-conventional energy agencies, water management organizations, health departments and village authorities must work 
together to bring the results of the above development group to every village starving for potable water in different parts of the world. Each and every school in rural areas must be fitted with such solar stills to provide safe drinking water to the children attending the schools. Tremendous expansion of the bottled water industry during the last two decades owes it entirely to the inaction and morbidity of government agencies in addressing this problem with any sense of urgency or commitment. Will the central and state governments in India at least wake up now and look at the solar still as a viable solution to the potable water shortage in the country? The helpless citizens can only wait and see.


Saturday, September 15, 2012


India is supposed to have world's largest school feeding program which can be of envy to many other developing countries. If the statistics trotted out by the government at Delhi are to be believed, children going to thousands of school across the country must be a happy lot. Unfortunately there is a wide gap between the program on paper with billions of rupees invested and what is really happening at the ground level. Like the Public Distribution System (PDS) an instrument put in place for delivering food grains at low cost to poor families, in the school feeding program also there are reported to be large scale malpractices and corruption that derail the very objective of the scheme. There are several questions that cannot be easily answered if a critical study is made of the existing feeding programs. Ideally such a scheme should use a prepacked food basket consisting of at least a dozen varieties made in centralized facilities which can be distributed for consumption with minimum preparation efforts in the schools concerned. Unfortunately this is not happening in spite of the fact that Government of India owns world's largest food research organization at Mysore with capabilities to develop right mix of products for such programs. In stead the foods are "locally" made by school teachers employing child labor using ingredients and water of doubtful quality and safety with no proper oversight by knowledgeable people. A recent instruction issued by the government in Goa tries to address this issue with a genuine intention to prevent any untoward episodes of food related poisoning. Here is a take on this constructive step in Goa which can make some dent, albeit, very small on the problem of quality and safety.  

"With an objective to ensure distribution of proper and hygienic food under the Mid-day Meal Scheme to the students, the department of education on Thursday issued a circular announcing that all its officers/officials will make surprise visits to various schools in all the talukas to assess the quality of meals served under this scheme. A circular to this effect recently issued by the director of Education, Mr D P Dwivedi states that these officers/officials will have to submit a report with their recommendation in the prescribed format within fortnight of their visit. The circular also states that a schedule should be prepared by respective DDEs of zones to ensure that these officers/ officials visit all the schools and multiple visits of same school or no visit of schools should be avoided. The circular has directed the officers/officials of the DoE to find out during their visit as to whether the weekly menu has been displayed on the school notice board, the type of meal served, time and delivery of food by the self-help groups/ Mahila Mandals, maintenance of Mid-day Meal scheme register, type of food containers used and so on. The visit will also find out whether the head of the school has checked the quantity and quality while receiving the containers with mid-day meal, whether the meal is tested and tasted by the teacher before serving to the students, whether the meal is tested and tasted by the Parent-Teachers Association member before serving the same, and general impression of the visiting officers/officials as regards the mid-day meal served in every school. It may be recalled that the DoE had last month issued another circular asking schools to standardise the practice of making students wash their hands before and after eating the mid-day meal. In that circular, the schools had been told that the particular practice would reduce the occurrence of Darrow. During the academic year 2011-12, meals were served to 91,000 primary school students studying in altogether 1,134 schools, while at the upper primary level - from classes V to VIII - meals were served to a total of 62,000 students in 425 upper primary schools around Goa".

While such routine directions come at regular intervals, a larger question remains regarding the competence and commitment of the babus involved in management of the feeding program in hundreds of schools in the state. If education department personnel are appointed for overseeing the functions of schools receiving government aid, how can they carry out the food management related functions? Will they have sufficient spare time to devote to activities other than education? Do they have any basic idea regarding hygiene, sanitation and food quality? At least government must expose them to the dynamics of functions related to food distribution through limited short term training programs. It is a rudimentary principle of human relations that one will listen to only those who are more knowledgeable than himself and therefore the education department babus can have more authority in overseeing the school feeding program if they are trained in food handling basics.


Friday, September 14, 2012


Microwave cooking and heating technology has been one of the most pioneering innovations of modern times to which millions of house wives and the food industry must be thankful. Though there is still some controversy regarding the safety of foods processed using microwave frequency, it is a fact that nothing conclusively has been proven that this form of cooking has even 1% safety risks. Use of microwave processing technology is more prevalent as a domestic kitchen appliance than its impact on food industry, probably because of cost factors and uncertainties associated with uniform heating, especially when large quantities are processed. It is the house wife who is being targeted by the packaging industry through newer innovations and developments. In-pouch cooking enabled packaging bags and trays and Susceptor based paper bags are new convenience oriented products being made available to the frozen products industry which enables the house wives to reduce the handling and heating time for converting them into ready to eat preparations. Here is a take on this exciting new direction packaging industry is taking for making the kitchen chores less cumbersome and time consuming.

"Time savings and convenience have been the principal benefits driving consumer demand for microwavable food products to date, and they will continue to be so in the future. The U.S. market for microwavable packaging materials will continue to grow at its current rate, with some added impetus generated by the industry's ability to improve the taste and texture of microwaved products, and to introduce new products that meet the health and fitness concerns of consumers. The study evaluates packaging technologies that are expanding microwavable packaging into new end-user categories by increasing package functionality. One example are self-venting pouches or trays that can be transferred directly from the freezer to the microwave oven, eliminating the need for manual venting by consumers. This feature has helped spur growth in the largest end-user segment—entrees (which in 2011 accounted for 29 percent of all U.S. sales of primary packaging materials for microwavable products)—as well in the fastest growing end-user segment: vegetables. The study forecasts 18.5 percent annual sales growth through 2016 for primary packaging materials for microwavable vegetables. Another innovation, susceptor technology, is an ongoing and major development in microwavable packing that is contributing to the projected high growth rate of particular types of packaging materials, notably paperboard cartons and sleeves for hand-held entrees and pizza slices. Susceptors enable microwave-prepared foods to more closely match the quality, taste and texture of food prepared in conventional ovens. This technology has been instrumental in the relatively high growth rate of folding cartons as a type of microwavable packaging, which the study forecasts to be a 13.2 percent rate of growth per year through 2016".

It is in the US that microwavable packs of frozen food products were introduced first and consumers seem to be liking this new convenience, if the market trend is any indication. Many vegetables and prepared meal packs are now available with pressure releasing provision which make them compatible with programmed microwave heating. Similarly the Susceptor based paper cartons can be expected to become popular because from safety angle paper is supposed to be much better compared to plastics. Of course design and fabrication of such bags require multi disciplinary expertise involving heat transfer, engineering and food science background. More developments can be expected in packaging field in the coming years in evolving dramatically new packaging modes with highest safety credentials.


Thursday, September 13, 2012


A simple technology that can rejuvenate water bodies which have become morbid due to senseless dumping of organic wastes, causing depletion of the vital oxygen needed for life, is receiving rave attention in the US, if recent reports are to be believed. It is no secret that the most polluted water body in the world happens to be Cuyahoga river in Ohio, USA, though some of the major polluted water bodies are distributed among Russia, Argentina, China, Bangladesh, Israel and India. Rivers Ganga and Yamuna in India come under the top ten polluted water bodies category in the world. The new technology developed by an Indian company seemed to have captured the imagination of one of the water reclaiming agencies in the US which used the Indian technology to bring about dramatic changes in terms of clearing the treated bodies free of oxygen choking substances and generate the much needed oxygen which is the elixir of life in this planet. Here is the report that gives further insight into this new technology.

Nualgi is a mix of micro nutrients in the form of nano particles including silica, iron and manganese, which triggers the rapid growth of a type of algae called diatoms, explained Mallimadugula Bhaskar, a collaborator of Sampathkumar. The oxygen released by diatoms through photosynthesis increases the dissolved oxygen level of water and thus keeps the pond clean and the diatoms converted into 'zooplanktons' provide food for the fish. One kilogram of Nualgi can treat four million litres of water, he said. Apart from India, Nualgi has been patented in the US, Britain, Germany and South Africa. Encouraged by its successful experiment in Duck Pond, Lake Savers has obtained clearance from the US Environmental Protection Agency for using Nualgi on a large scale in the US. "We are now aggressively embarking on more intensive studies and applications of Nualgi in a variety of water bodies from 5 to 120 acres," Tucci said. The Lake Savers which has so far purchased 350 kg of Nualgi, has expressed intent to buy another one tonne this year, Bhaskar said. According to Bhaskar, Nualgi is an economical alternative to treat sewage and organic wastes in "eutrophic" lakes and ponds as no skilled labor or energy is required. It is inexpensive and can be mass produced, he said. An eutrophic lake is characterized by excessive growth of algae resulting from contamination by nitrogen or phosphorus compounds such as by laundry detergents, untreated sewage, and fertilizer run-off from agricultural land. "One obvious solution is to reduce these inputs but this is unrealistic," Bhaskar said, adding: "The other solution is to remove the nutrients from water. The Nualgi-diatom-zooplankton-fish food chain is the best way to achieve this. Thus all the polluted lakes and rivers can be restored to their original glory using Nualgi."

What is not understandable is why countries facing problems of water pollution are not coming forward to whole-heartedly apply this technology to rejuvenate their water bodies? Is it a case of lack of financial resources or lack of will that inhibits taking a decision to apply this technology on a wide scale? Or is it the fear of using nanotechnology, with some safety questions still remaining unanswered, coming in the way of using the same for treatment of the water bodies? Whatever it is, a technology with such a high potential to regenerate dying rivers and lakes in the world remains grossly under utilized is a reflection of the lethargy and insensitivity on the part of the governments concerned.



Food preparations, where ever they are made, can be hazardous when proper sanitary and hygienic practices are not adopted. If frequent food poisoning episodes are reported around the world, reason for a significant percentage of them can be attributed to ignorance, callousness, insensitivity and greediness for increasing profitability on the part of the manufacturers. Places of worship like Temples, Churches, Mosques, Ashrams etc attract huge number of devotees regularly and serving meals and offering prasadam are accepted tradition. While in smaller places limited volumes are made in kitchens located within the premises, there are also outsourced type of products made in central facilities for supply to the temples in some parts of the country. Large temples like Tirupati, Sabarimala, Dharmasthala, Udipi Temple etc receive thousands of visitors every day and the kitchens in these places are slowly modernizing the preparation facilities, though the pace of change is very slow. Sabarimala Temple was recently in the news after it was announced by the Travancore Devaswam Board which administers this temple that CFTRI, Mysore would be its consultant for improving the prasadam preparations from quality and safety angles. Here is a take on this new development about which devotees might be happy.  

The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, has been appointed the official consultant of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) for providing technical guidance to ensure the quality of Aravana, Appam, and other prasadom preparation at Sabarimala, Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar who is also the Chief Commissioner of the board, has said. He was talking to media persons at Sabarimala on Sunday after inspecting the Nilackal base camp, Pampa, and Sabarimala to review the arrangements for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season that begins in mid-November. He said the decision on the CFTRI's appointment came in the wake of the suggestions of the Kerala High Court, the Food Safety Commissioner, and Ayyappa devotees. Mr. Jayakumar said the TDB would procure quality jaggery for Aravana and Appam preparation directly from manufacturers with a proven track record. Tender had been invited to supply jaggery directly to the TDB godown at Pampa, he said.
It is amazing that the hard core babus in the government took almost 25 years to take this decision since CFTRI made the offer of helping the Temple to do the same and streamline the production way back in late nineteen eighties. Of course this latest decision did not come with any conviction as it was forced on the government by the Kerala High Court through one of the judgments delivered recently! The famous products associated with this popular temple include Aravana payasam, a jaggery based semi liquid preparation and Neyyappam, a fried sweet item, both of which became notorious during recent years because of contamination episodes and serious complaints from devotees regarding quality. It must be recalled that CFTRI was associated with temples like Tirupati and Palani earlier to provide technical guidance and such efforts should have been continued with other mass feeding places also for safeguarding the health of the devotees. The success of such sporadic efforts depends on the dynamism of the head of the temple authorities in taking decisions and supporting and implementing the recommendations of the technical team that may be entrusted with the task. A multidisciplinary team with engineers, microbiologists, food scientists, infestation control experts and packaging technology can handle the task effectively, if unstinting cooperation is forthcoming from the staff in these places, setting aside their prejudices and personal agenda.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Making bread is considered more a skill than science though the process is based on scientific facts. There are thousands of bakeries in many countries making their own bread using their special recipes delivering fresh bread every day through their shop front. A fresh bread from an "Iyengar bakery" in Karnataka or a Kaka shop in Kerala is irresistible as far as aroma, texture and taste are concerned though every baker uses same ingredients like wheat flour, yeast, water, yeast foods, employs a mixer for developing the dough and heat the portioned dough in an oven at relatively high temperatures. There are many newer developments that can make bread faster, with more consistency of quality and large scale production takes place in huge automated baking facilities. While oven, whether gas operated or electrical, is a standard feature in many western kitchens, it is not owned by majority of families in countries like China and India where bread is still a bought out item of the diet. Here is a claim from one of the cooking experts as to how good bread can be made without an oven and at temperatures much below that is obtained in an oven. Here are a few details.

The pressure cooker is a wonderfully versatile kitchen tool. One of the best things about this, besides the time savings, is you avoid heating up your kitchen with the oven.One of our favorite food hacks is making fresh bread without a bread maker. If you own a pressure cooker, you can get make delicious and rich-tasting loaves at home in under twenty minutes. Laura at Hip Pressure Cooking (the same smart site that showed us how to cook eggs in a pressure cooker) reveals this new bread-making technique. You'll need some sort of container, like a coffee can or heat-proof glass measuring cup, and just a few simple ingredients (e.g., flour, baking soda, yogurt). After pressure cooking for fifteen to twenty minutes you should get a warm loaf (even faster than baking bread in a crock pot). The bread doesn't come out crunchy, but you can quickly grill a few slices or put them under the broiler for some crust.

Interestingly the bread made in a Pressure Cooker needs to be further toasted before consumption because the product tends to be some what soggy due to presence of too much moisture in the baking environment. Of course the term bread can mean different things to different people and there are many products in the Orient called bread made from from rice which have no resemblance to what goes by that name in the West. Another important difference in the bread made with pressure cooker is that it uses baking powder for "raising" while traditional bread recipes use live yeast for the purpose. One is reminded of a product called "Buns" in the coastal region of Karnataka, made from Maida with Banana pulp as an important ingredient and deploying frying process for getting the fluffy texture. This product, offered in most local restaurants, is much more tastier than the baked buns made by conventional bakeries. The above report about preparing bread in a Pressure cooker can definitely give a product with its own flavor and texture which many may like as a simple alternative to commercially made bread products.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


While lot is being talked about the food security issues which are going to be faced in the coming years, little attention has been focused on the on-going water crisis being experienced in many urban entities throughout India. Though providing safe drinking water to its citizens in adequate quantities is the sacred responsibility of those who plan and manage civic facilities in these protected population areas, India is woefully lack of even the minimum infrastructure in these townships due to mis-governance, lethargy, callousness, insufficient investment and insensitivity to the sufferings of the citizens. Probably India may be the only country in the world where water quality in most of the towns and cities is totally unreliable and can cause damage to the health of the population depending heavily on the so called "protected" water supplies. One even wonders whose health the municipalities and civic corporations are protecting-the citizen's or the financial health of the private water suppliers and the bottled water manufacturers who are having a swell time under such an environment. Here is an interesting report from Chennai about the tragedy of water supply system here which reflects the unfortunate mindset of the governments with no value attached for human lives in their agenda!

"As many as 90 private tankers that cater largely to apartment complexes, hotels, hospitals and commercial establishments were checked over the past few days. The water samples transported by private vehicles were checked in various areas such as Koyambedu, Retteri and Padi. The exercise follows the recent death of two construction workers from West Bengal, allegedly due to acute diarrheal disease after drinking water procured from a private tanker supplier at their workplace in Pallikaranai. These tankers are becoming indispensable as the demand for water is on the rise. While Metrowater's supply is primarily through pipes, some localities rely on tankers for their daily needs. Chennai Metrowater operates nearly 670 tanker trips every day and charges a nominal amount for them. The remaining gap between demand and supply, especially for the suburbs and large establishments, is mainly bridged by private water lorries. While over 2,000 private tankers are said to be in the business in and around Chennai, there is no regulation or monitoring of the quality of water supplied or the number of trips operated by these private suppliers. According to sources in the Food Safety department, the Chennai Corporation is the authority to enforce quality norms on private water lorries in the city while the Public Health department fulfills that function in the city's fringes. None of the water samples checked had the minimum chlorine level of 0.2 parts per million (ppm), as per prevalent specifications. The water in these tankers had been extracted from bore wells or open wells in agricultural areas".

It is admitted that India is a big country and there are bound to be teething problems and occasional hiccups during the growing phase but perpetuating the dilapidated water supply infrastructure except for some stray improvements here and there is not acceptable to the citizen who invests heavily on taxes and confidence on the ability of the administrators to protect his life under the democratic system of governance. Projects are planned, heavy investments are made and execution is scheduled but it takes ages for such projects to take shape due to the inefficiency of the management system with no one bothered about such indefinite delays which can be any where from 5 to 40 years!. Many projects are never even completed, let alone commissioned! Accountability has become the casualty in the present day India with no one being hauled up for shoddy work in any sphere of activity connected with the governments. What a tragedy! What type of life a citizen can lead if the basic minimum water needed for a clean and healthy life is denied to him, though excuses may be many for the shirkers to trot out for the delay? Will India ever achieve a stage where at least water flows abundantly, let alone the promised honey and milk under the Ramarajya regime envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi? If the present trend is any indication, such a transformation is unlikely in the foreseeable future.


Monday, September 10, 2012


Controlling body weight is a pressing problem these days when thousands of mouth watering food products are available in the market, most of them being rich in sugar and fat. As these foods are addictive in nature, once hooked on to them there is no way to escape unless one has will power and dedication to control the type and quantum of food consumed. The fact that weight increase is mostly determined by the amount of calories ingested through carbohydrates and fats, makes it all the more imperative to regulate calorie intake just to meet the every day needs. There are many diet plans like Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet etc being touted as effective for controlling body weight but there is no consensus that they work for every body and they are without any side effects. Here comes a new eating regime based plan that advocates controlling the portion of food consumed each day to avoid excess consumption. Here are some details of the "Plan"

"In the case of Lifesize — a portion-control diet system meant to be easy to follow thanks to plastic measuring devices for food groups like carbohydrates, meats and dairy — Mr. Kates brought dieting and nutrition expertise. After studying biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, he spent years running fitness clubs and advising clients, including celebrities, on their diets. Mr. Berkowitz, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, brought salesmanship. As a filmmaker who often had to scrape together budgets, he knew how to hustle for start-up capital and make a good pitch. Not that either man knew they would ever be partners based on that first meeting. Mr. Kates said that to lose weight, it didn't matter what you ate, — in fact, he insisted that Mr. Berkowitz not limit himself to grilled chicken and vegetables — but it was how much you ate. Mr. Berkowitz remained unconvinced, but took note of the portion sizes that Mr. Kates showed him with his hands. The next day, Mr. Berkowitz began to wonder if Mr. Kates might actually be right. "So I run out and I get clay," Mr. Berkowitz said. "According to his measurements, my wife and I make bowls." They took the bowls to Color Me Mine, a pottery studio, and fired them up. "I put a big 'M' under one bowl for meat. A big 'C' for carbs, and 'D' for dairy, because that's how they're divided. I started eating that way. My energy was up and the weight started falling off." He ultimately lost 46 pounds".

It is difficult to imagine that such a plan will work with people who consider eating what they want in quantities desired by them as a fundamental right that is sacrosanct! Recall the furor that is going on in New York when authorities there wanted to ban sale of large sized sugary beverages beyond the size 16 oz. The new diet plan suffers from the drawback that its success will depend largely on the self control on foods eaten by an individual and unless such control is evident, it will not work. Added to this it may pose logistical problems in segregating foods into carbohydrate rich, fat rich etc because levels of these nutrients vary enormously from product to product and country to country. Besides the volume based portion size may pose difficulties in deciding about the quantity to be consumed. Ultimately no "scheme" can succeed without the cooperation of those desirous of shedding their body weight sincerely.


Saturday, September 8, 2012


A critical question one may ask regarding organic foods is why people are paying a premium price and buy them? Typically the answer could be that they are safer and more nutritious than commercially produced produced products using a variety of chemical substances including antibiotics. However very few people really believe that organic foods can be more nutritious, their faith on them being anchored on safety and there is a strong reason for that. Organic food industry is one of the most rigidly regulated sectors with well laid guidelines and strict procedures to avoid chemical contamination of any sort, be it from fertilizers, water, soil, crop protecting chemicals or any other source and strong certification procedure by expert agencies make them more attractive to consumers, giving the much needed confidence. in a recent study, it was brought out that organic foods are not more nutritious (which was already known) and less likely to contain man made chemical substances (also known earlier) and the findings as contained in the following report may not be that exciting.  

"17 studies in humans and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods met inclusion criteria. Only 3 of the human studies examined clinical outcomes, finding no significant differences between populations by food type for allergic outcomes (eczema, wheeze, atopic sensitization) or symptomatic Campylobacter infection. Two studies reported significantly lower urinary pesticide levels among children consuming organic versus conventional diets, but studies of biomarker and nutrient levels in serum, urine, breast milk, and semen in adults did not identify clinically meaningful differences. All estimates of differences in nutrient and contaminant levels in foods were highly heterogeneous except for the estimate for phosphorus; phosphorus levels were significantly higher than in conventional produce, although this difference is not clinically significant. The risk for contamination with detectable pesticide residues was lower among organic than conventional produce (risk difference, 30% [CI, -37% to -23%]), but differences in risk for exceeding maximum allowed limits were small. Escherichia coli contamination risk did not differ between organic and conventional produce. Bacterial contamination of retail chicken and pork was common but unrelated to farming method. However, the risk for isolating bacteria resistant to 3 or more antibiotics was higher in conventional than in organic chicken and pork (risk difference, 33% [CI, 21% to 45%])".

It is true that organic food industry hardly commands 2-3% of global food market and probably clocking a reasonable annual growth, slightly higher than the normal food industry. But the faith in the safety of organic foods cannot be shaken easily as common sense tells the consumer that they are definitely superior to present day main stream food industry because chemical inputs during growing or processing are scrupulously avoided. Talking about nutrition the conventionally marketed foods many be contain more nutrients as most of them are fortified with a variety of substances like vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. How far these external addition are utilized by the body is another matter, fit for a debate! 


Friday, September 7, 2012


The mandatory "front of the pack labeling" is intended to respect the right of every citizen to know what is inside a food pack and compare the same with what is offered by others in the market. Almost all countries have labeling regulations with little variations but basically the objectives remain the same. While consumers whole heartedly welcomed such initiatives for the benefit of the community at large, it is the industry which consistently and aggressively resists such regulations, fearing an adverse impact on its financial health. If food industry appears on the wrong side of the consumer family it is because of such gross insensitivity to the well being and sufferings of the very consumers who after all provide its "bread and butter". The on-going war on mandatory GM labeling policy being put on the ballot initiative in California, USA for eliciting majority opinion is being furiously resisted by the industry and millions of dollars are being invested to defeat the proposal. It is very difficult to imagine the reason for such a negative attitude of the industry, considering that what is being asked from them is to declare if their products contain genetically altered ingredients. After all there are many processors who do not use GM ingredients in their products and an opportunity "window" opens up for the consumer to buy those products if labeling is insisted upon. Here is an interesting critique on the subject and consumers all over the will be looking for a massive endorsement of the policy initiative in California.

"This November, Californians will vote for or against Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. The outcome of that vote will likely determine whether the U.S. will one day join the nearly 50 other countries that allow their citizens to choose between genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered food through the enactment of laws requiring mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms(GMOs). The election is three months away, but the battle lines were drawn months ago. Lining up against the consumer's right to know — and throwing plenty of money into the fight — is a long list of industry front groups, food conglomerates and biotech companies. Near the top of that list is the powerful Washington, DC-based Grocery Manufacturer's Association (GMA), a multi-billion-dollar trade association. The GMA represents America's $1.2 trillion "Big Food" industry, led by supermarket chains, Monsanto and other biotech companies, animal drug companies, multinational food manufacturers, and junk food restaurants — all of whom rely on the use of dangerous chemicals, pesticides, animal drugs, and GMOs to produce cheap, contaminated food".

One natural question that arises out of the above situation is why the industry is opposing the transparency sought to be achieved through the new labeling policy when there are divergent views regarding the safety and environment dangers posed by GM foods. If irradiated foods, with tons of safety studies concluding that they are safe, needs to be labeled under American law, why not GM foods? A logical question that must replied by those opposing GM labeling proposal. It is amusing to note the stand taken by the antagonists of the proposed policy of compulsory labeling regarding the impact of such a move on the future of Biotechnology as if this modern wonder science is restricted to only developing GM foods! One important consideration about this issue is regarding the logistical difficulties that may arise once California voters approve the proposal because California is one of the 50 states in the US and food industry will have to either declare GM foods for entire country or separate labels need to be printed on products made and marketed in that state. Probably Food and Drug Administration deserves blame for this dilemma as this agency has shirked its responsibility by not passing such a law with national foot print, applicable to the entire country, probably bowing to the lobbying power of the GM food industry giants..


Thursday, September 6, 2012


Nano technology has emerged as a major breakthrough for many industries because of its ability to deliver designer materials to well defined targets, overcoming normal physical barriers. Though no where in the world its safety has been established conclusively, in absence of any regulatory mechanism, there is an unwritten understanding that the technology can be used without any consumer knowing about it! Food industry is eagerly looking forward to use Nano technology in processing as and when regulatory approvals are forthcoming. There are a few alarming reports about the potential harm nano particles can cause to human beings because of the ability of nano particle chemicals to pass through the cell membrane and the unpredictable consequences of such a scenario on human health. A problem of a different dimension has recently been highlighted by health experts regarding the impact of unanticipated nano size contaminants in soil like Zinc Oxide and Cerium Oxide coming from industrial effluents on the soil productivity and food safety. Here is a critique on this emerging issue.  

STAR researchers at the University of California Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology, have published an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that manufactured nanoparticles in agricultural soil can accumulate in plants and can  affect plant growth and food quality.  This was the first major study of soybeans grown in manufactured nanomaterials-tainted soil. The researchers looked at the effects of zinc and cerium oxides. Nano materials, used in everything from lotions and makeup to fuel additives can be transported into air, water and soil and can impact plant growth and food quality.  Soil contamination may come from the final stage of waste water treatment which creates biosolids, which are applied to soils in many parts of the U.S. This solid material fertilizes the soil, returning nitrogen and phosphorus that are captured during waste water treatment but is also a point at which zinc oxide and cerium oxide can enter the soil. Cerium oxide may also contaminate soils from air deposition as a combustion biproduct. The researchers found that zinc oxide accumulated in the plants grown in the tainted soil and affected food quality although it may not be harmful to humans if the zinc is in salt or ion form in the plant. The cerium oxide however stunted plant growth, affecting the root nodules where bacteria symbiotically convert nitrogen in the air to a form plants can use. The researchers conclude there is a high probability of nanoparticles in crop soil but more research is necessary to determine impact on crops and consumers.  This research was co-funded by EPA and NSF.
It is true with any technology that both good and bad aspects will have to be considered before mass application. Genetic Engineering, food irradiation, use of chemical preservatives and antibiotics etc are all beautiful technologies of immense benefit to the consumers but safety of their applications under all conditions must be established before wide scale use. Same holds good for Nano technology also with opinions differing widely among the scientists. Unofficial use of Nano technology in non-food applications was ignored so far because the nano sized particles used by the non-food industry does not cause any direct dangers to humans. But the new revelation that these dangerous particles can end up in food crops through cultivated soil raises the bar vis-a-vis unrestricted use of Nano technology in any field without properly assessing the consequences.  


Wednesday, September 5, 2012


The organic food industry is again being hauled up for practices not compatible with the well laid down guidelines for manufacturing such foods. It was only recently that this industry was being faulted for adding synthetic chemicals to organic food formulations through back door tactics by unduly influencing the approval agencies to consent to their requirements rather than the welfare of the consumer. More over there are insidious attempts going on to buy out many small scale organic food players through financial inducements by some of the food giants with deep pockets. Here comes another instance of this industry "cocking a snook" at the regulatory authorities by including in their baby food formulations synthetic chemicals not currently approved. If such trends continue, the immense faith and hope consumers have on organic foods are likely to be shaken badly. Here is a critique on this issue.

The Cornucopia Institute, a not-for-profit policy research organization based in Wisconsin, filed a formal legal complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) against several infant formula manufacturers that are adding two synthetic preservatives to certified organic infant formula. The Organic Foods Production Act, passed by Congress in 1990, explicitly bans synthetic preservatives in organic food. "This is another blatant violation of the federal law governing organics by multi-billion dollar corporations that apparently think they can get away with anything," says Charlotte Vallaeys, Director of Farm and Food Policy at The Cornucopia Institute. The preservatives are beta carotene and ascorbyl palmitate, synthetics that are added to infant formula to prevent the oxidation and rancidity of ingredients such as the controversial patented supplements DHA and ARA, manufactured by Martek Biosciences Corporation (Royal DSM) and marketed as Life'sDHA®. "This is not the first time that the pharmaceutical companies and agribusinesses, that manufacture infant formula, have quietly added to organic formula the same synthetic ingredients that they use in their conventional versions without first seeking the legally required approval for use in organics," says Vallaeys. According to The Cornucopia Institute, there have been more than a dozen unapproved synthetic ingredients that have been added to organic infant formula over the past five years. The public interest group has filed numerous legal complaints with the USDA, asking for removal of unapproved synthetic ingredients like the DHA algal oil and ARA fungal oils, manufactured by Martek, which was recently acquired by the Dutch conglomerate Royal DSM. While the USDA has admitted publicly that these synthetics were added to organics due to an erroneous interpretation by previous USDA leadership, the agency, after being pressured by industry, has refused to take enforcement action and pull the suspect products from store shelves. The DSM/Martek DHA and ARA oils, labeled on infant formula as "c. cohnii oil" and "m. alpina oil," have been controversial since the preponderance of scientific published research concluded that they do not benefit infant development. "These ingredients, which now appear to require additional synthetics as preservatives, amount to a gimmicky and risky marketing ploy," added Vallaeys.

The "fraud", if it can be called one, is truly disgusting considering that the products under the scanner are targeted at young and tender infants with uncertain consequences. It should not be forgotten that organic food movement originated because of the "imperial" practices of the food industry controlled more or less by about a dozen multi national companies in using ingredients with suspect safety credentials. With more and more followers patronizing these foods, main stream industry is apparently worried about their bottom line and are now trying to swallow the smaller organic food players for usurping the virgin market. The US government can never be pardoned for its repeated attempts to dilute organic food standards and by introducing terms like 70% organic, 100% organic etc the consumer is being led astray. Such attitudes and mindset for supporting monopolistic food industry giants should not be allowed to continue and consumer rights organizations and activists must resist such attempts fiercely.