Friday, January 30, 2015

Hunger blocking-A new device to treat people with high BMI.

Medical science has progressed so much to day that there is a "surgical' solution for almost every ailment man is facing. Only to day there was this report which highlighted the efforts of surgeons to implant an artificial pancreas in a child to overcome the Type I diabetes disease! Like this transplantation and implantation are common for many organs like heart, liver, kidney etc and thousands of such "operations" are performed every day across the world giving new lease of life to people, who otherwise are condemned to a life of uncertainty and enormous anxiety burden. Now comes a news from the US that the drug authorities there have approved a medical device that can be implanted in obese patients who otherwise are not responding to any treatment for reducing their body weight. Here is a take on this interesting development which may give hope to millions of obese individuals to cut down their misery.

"EnteroMedics' Maestro System has become the first obesity device to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in ten years. The device, which the company compares to a pacemaker, is designed to block signals in the nervous system to reduce feelings of hunger. Obesity is, excuse the phrasing, a growing problem across the world. It is estimated that one third of Americans are clinically obese. While eating less is may present the simplest and most obvious solution for many, combating obesity or stimulating weight loss, especially in the morbidly obese, is not a linear problem. Often it is simply not practicable or effective for those treating obese patients to recommend diet and exercise, and more drastic treatments such bariatric surgery are too invasive for some patients or may have other adverse effects. The now FDA approved Maestro System, which has been in use in Australia since mid-2011, is implanted via an outpatient procedure. By applying electrical pulses in what EnteroMedics calls VBLOC vagal blocking therapy, it is designed to interfere with signals between the stomach and the brain along the vagus nerve, which regulates the digestive system. Like other approaches to suppressing appetite , the desired result is to decrease feelings of hunger or induce a sense of satiety. The implanted system is connected to a battery which must be regularly recharged by the patient".

It is not that weight reduction methods are not available for dealing with such extreme weight related cases but when all available methods do not bring in desired results, what else one can do except going in for extreme measures like the implantation. The new technique though considered minimally invasive, still entails surgery to position the rechargeable battery device, similar to a cardiac pace maker, for blocking hunger signals coming from the brain through the vagus nerve system resulting in lesser feeling of hunger and consequently lesser eating. This new therapy is intended mainly for those with BMI 35 and beyond with health problems like CVD and other life style diseases. Unlike Bariatric surgery where part of the intestine is stapled to reduce volume of food eaten, vagus nerve intervention therapy is done as an out patient procedure without any need of hospitalization. A word of caution is called for and that is, while opting for this therapy it is inadvisable to opting for it by healthy individuals for becoming lean in a hurry!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tracing the contamination source-A new DNA based tool

Food poisoning episodes are increasingly being reported from countries like the US where even the best of growing and processing practices are not able to stop them completely. Naturally in a country where people cook very little at home and depend on market offered foods, the chances of getting infected or exposed to bacterial toxins are very high. It is not rational or logical to expect that every food handling facility can be kept under eternal surveillance because of high cost involved and limited availability of technical personnel equipped with the wherewithal to assess the safety of these facilities. Traceability is the mot urgent need for the safety monitoring agencies to stop food poisoning episodes in order to stop them in their tracks and take preemptive steps to avoid further damage through product recall. With global food trade becoming more and more easier and moving on a fast track, food materials travelling over 10,000 km is becoming very common. Though self sufficiency is a beautiful word, achieving it is beyond the realm of possibility for many countries, thus increasing the interdependence of nations for meeting their food needs. In this context a method for use of DNA solutions with specific identity for spraying on to the surface of produce materials is being developed for any future identification of the source of origin if there is a contingency arising due to infection of the produce. Here is a take on this novel technique.

"In the labs at DNATrek, the scientists create different liquids that each contain a unique DNA sequence. The sequences would be combined with safe-to-eat food additives, such as the waxes that are now sometimes added to the surfaces of apples and cucumbers. Spray-on DNA bar codes help trace food-borne illnesses | Genetic Literacy Project—stamping the produce with their signature genetic bar code. If needed in the case of an outbreak, investigators could use polymerase chain reaction technology to decipher the bar code and determine where the produce was grown and what route it had traveled. According to Anthony Zografos, founder and CEO of DNATrek: If there's a problem at home and there's a piece of the cantaloupe left, you can pick it out of the trash, you can scrub the surface, and all the available information is there and you know exactly where it came from.In only 15 to 20 minutes, scientists would be able to find out all the particulars of the produce. In an outbreak, time is of the essence; lives could be saved. And the technology is relatively inexpensive too. The spray will probably cost $1 for every 1,000 pounds of produce. Compare that to the estimated $150 billion a year that the U.S. directly or indirectly, spends on food-borne illnesses in a year." 

In this scheme of things each supplier is allotted a particular DNA solution which needs to be applied on the surface of the produce and by polymerase reaction the DNA sequence can be determined in about 15-20 min if and when the need arises subsequently at any point in the supply chain to identify the source.. The product currently developed is based on synthetic DNA though DNA derived from seaweed can also be used as it is one of the safest with no safety problem. As the DNA bits used are of small chain length, it is claimed that their presence would have no adverse reaction at the consumer end. Any biotechnology endeavor, especially involving DNA maneuvering, will be viewed with apprehension and therefore this technology also will face hostile reaction from some section of scientists which will have to be overcome with necessary safety data on its use.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mechanical tenderization of meat-Safety apprehensions not addressed on priority

Meat products happened to be one of the most frequently contaminated foods in the US market and in spite of stiff guidelines and regulatory controls food poisoning incidences are becoming a constant source of concern to the safety authorities in that country. The industry is also mired in controversy on account of the frequent use of popular antibiotics in the feeds, contented to be for increasing the body weight of the animals during the growth stage. Obviously the antibiotics residues are bound to be in the meat derived from such animals and consequently incidence of infection can be expected to be less frequent. Still contaminated meat products make news in the US more and more frequently and there is considerable apprehension among the consumers regarding consequences of consuming infected meat products. Added to this worry is the use of newer technologies like mechanized tenderization which theoretically can increase the potential for contamination if proper precautions are not taken. Repeated attempts by consumer activists to force the meat industry to distinguish mechanically tenderized from conventionally processed products are being resisted by the processors and the safety agency seems to be willingly playing into the hands of the meat industry lobby by delaying the mandatory labeling requirement under one pretext or the other. Here is a take on this issue.

"For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized. Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer. A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths. The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it's impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That's especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said. In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year. "When we're trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact," Buck said.'

It is not understandable as to why the industry is so fiercely opposing such consumer friendly labeling system forgetting that the very foundation of its business is built upon confidence and trust between them. Same trend is seen in the case of GM foods also where repeated attempts by the consumer organizations to label them are being rebuffed by the industry through means which cannot be considered fair. industry may claim that their products are perfectly safe but it is the inalienable right of the consumer to know what he is buying and therefore if he wants to know if the meat is mechanically tenderized he must know about it to take a decision to buy or not. If the law says irradiated foods, considered absolutely safe, need labeling why not mechanically tenderized meat products also? Further prevarication by the safety agencies cannot be condoned at all. 


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Losing weight through daily injection! A new therapy being commercialized

Losing weight is a multibillion dollar business in western countries and there  are many specially designed foods and dietary regimes offered in the market place to help overweight and obese people to trim down. In-house treatment of obese people in specialty centers is also becoming popular though they are called by the romantic name "Wellness Centers". While those with BMI figures slightly higher than normal limits can manage with minor adjustments in the diet and better eating discipline, it is those who score BMI values beyond 30 who need special attention. Extreme measures like Bariatric surgery and other interventionist procedures are increasingly being resorted to by desperate patients to get relief from the dangerous outcome of uncontrolled weight gain. Recently even an implantation procedure to interfere with the hunger signals from the brain through the vagus nerves in the stomach has been cleared for application in highly obese people.  Against this backdrop comes the news that the EU has cleared a new therapy using daily injections that will help people to reduce their food consumption at least by 10% and shed excess weights with assured results. Here is a take on this new development.

"A treatment of injections that can help people lose a stone more than they normally would by dieting or exercising more has been approved by health watchdogs. Liraglutide, which has been described by doctors as life-changing, could be available on prescription in months. Slimmers typically lose almost a stone more than they would by simply watching how many calories they consume and doing more exercise. Trials showed that some severely obese patients lost so much weight they were able to abandon their wheelchairs and walk normally for the first time in years. Liraglutide also lowers blood pressure, raises good cholesterol and prevents diabetes. According to its makers, Novo Nordisk of Denmark, the drug even produces a 'feel-good factor', making dieting a pleasure. But some experts have already warned it does not provide a long-term solution to the growing problem of obesity in Britain. Novo Nordisk will apply for it to be prescribed on the NHS after Friday's ruling by the European drugs regulator that it is safe and effective. There are fears however that Nice – Britain's drugs rationing body – will judge it too expensive for routine use on the NHS. Liraglutide costs from £2.25 a day, which is roughly double the price of Orlistat, the only other prescription diet drug. Patients inject the drug into their stomach before breakfast every day. It works by suppressing appetite. Liraglutide, which will be given the brand name Saxenda, is already used at a lower dose to treat diabetes. It is based on a hormone found in the gut and sends signals to the brain that trick it into feeling full. As a result, people eat 10 per cent less food than normal. Trials of Liraglutide found that men and women who injected themselves daily lost an average of 19lb in 12 months. This is almost a stone more than they would lose by being on a diet and increasing the amount they exercise. Furthermore one third or those who took part in the trials shed 23lb – more than a stone and a half. For a 14 stone woman that kind of weight loss would usually mean dropping two dress sizes. The drug which, like insulin, comes in an injectable pen, also has such a significant effect on blood pressure that patients can dispense with the drugs they use to keep it under control. Like Orlistat, its prescription is likely to be limited to those who are obese or who are overweight and have another health problem such as high blood pressure."

The fact that this drug is already in use to treat diabetics is a plus factor as there may not be any serious side effects. Also encouraging is the fact that Novo Nordisk of Denmark, a reputed international firm has developed this therapy adds further confidence in the product. As a bonus it seems patients using this drug had also lower blood pressure and higher HDL values.besides preventing on-set of diabetes. Of course there is this uncomfortable feeling when patients have to administer this injection in the stomach before breakfast. The innovators have cautioned that the new drug is not for use by healthy individuals for indulging in gluttony but for obese patients who have difficulties in moving and doing their daily chores.


Monday, January 26, 2015

"Let thy food be thy medicine!---"- How true it is!

Though Socrates said 2000 years ago that "let thy food be thy medicine", the modern world does not want to have any thing to do with this famous "truth". How else we can explain the reckless living style people have adopted depending increasingly on a plethora of drugs churned out by the pharma industry for treating, ironically, the diseases caused by over eating, imbalanced eating and irregular eating? The recent report that the American population, about one third of them being obese, does not suffer from want of calories but is severely "malnourished" is indeed a shocking revelation. According to many health pundits if people are educated early enough the close linkage between food and health and if balanced foods are consumed regularly almost all diseases now raging in that country due to bad foods would not have been there! There is a strong view that it is time to think differently when it comes to dealing with the life style disorders which are eating into the vitals of American society and through better food and balanced diet only any future catastrophe can be avoided. Here is a commentary on this issue as put forward by one of the reputed surgeons who has a close ring side view about the health scenario unfolding in that country. 

"The number of people who are malnourished despite being obese is scandalous, a leading weight loss surgeon has said today. A recent study showed despite high levels of obesity in the U.S., many people are undernourished.  A diet of pizza, fries, crisps, pasta, rice, biscuits, cakes leaves many people consuming a lot of calories but few nutrients, says Dr Sally Norton, an NHS consultant specialising in weight loss and upper gastrointestinal surgery. The problem is exacerbated by coffee shops serving sugary and fatty drinks appearing in hospital foyers and junior doctors being given minimal training on nutrition. Drug companies push the sales of expensive drugs which treat the symptoms of the disease but not the cause, she says.Instead we should treat disease with nutrition, letting food be our medicine".

It is a tragedy of Himalayan proportion that the food environment in this so called "most powerful" country in the world is so vitiated that people are behaving like zombies rushing to wards food service joints serving most unhealthy foods offered by the latter rich in sugar, saturated fat, salt, carbohydrates and practically free from that vital food component, viz dietary fiber so necessary for maintaining good health. Modern generation has no clue regarding the advantages of whole cereals, unrefined flours, fruits, vegetables and other health protecting food materials. Blaming food industry.for churning out unhealthy foods will not take the country far, unless citizens assume more responsibility for their own health through scientific and rational food selection. The golden words of Socrates that "thy food is thy medicine" should be the "national icon" for the US for the next one decade if the current trend of over eating and wrong eating practices are to be reversed.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Heritable microbiome? New findings with some hope for overcoming life style diseases

Can any one believe that microbes can be inherited by children from their parents and the vulnerability of the off springs to major diseases like CVD, Diabetes and obesity is determined by the bacterial species inherited? Such a hypothesis is being put forward by a group of scientists working together from the UK and the US. The study further claims that lean individuals with least susceptibility to put on weight have a family of bacteria that may hold key to solving the obesity epidemic confronting the world. They have been able to confirm their hypothesis through animal experiments using these specific bacterial cultures and would be looking for a pro-biotic therapy approach to treat obesity related diseases. Here is a take on this unbelievable claim which if proved correct may open up an entirely new therapy giving hope to millions of obesity affected people across the world.

A new study has determined that not only are bacteria naturally found in the gut involved in obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, but they are genetically inherited. Researchers at King's College London and Cornell University identified a highly-heritable bacterial family that is more common in individuals with low body weight and that could pave the way for genetics-based personalized probiotic therapies for obesity-related diseases. The study examined 1,081 fecal samples taken from 977 people – 171 pairs of identical twins and 245 pairs of non-identical twins, plus 145 other, individual twins. Microbes from a bacterial family called Christensenellaceae, and to a lesser extent other specific microbe populations, were significantly more similar in the identical twins than non-identical twins, suggesting a strong genetic (and thus hereditary) influence in gut microbe composition. The study suggests that altering the Christensenellaceae population may have a direct impact on susceptibility to obesity, as mice treated with the microbe gained less weight than untreated mice. The researchers believe that similar personalized microbe treatments in humans could be a promising new aid in the fight against obesity – both in terms of prevention and reduction.

Whether the word "inherited" can be used here is some what questionable because bacterial cells are not considered transferable to the child while in the womb. Usually the new born child develops its microbiome during the early days of breast feeding by the mother and during suckling only surface bacteria can be transferred through the oral route. The gut bacteria which is a part of the gastrointestinal system of the mother may have no easy route to the GI of the child though many organisms in the gut are also present in other parts of mother's body. Whether such passage of microbiome from mother to the off spring is determined by the genes of the mother inherited by the baby is not clear. Another confusing picture is that the gut microbiome is influenced very much by the diet and its profile rapidly changes depending on the food consumed. Probably further research may bring out how mother's gut bacteria is transmitted to the baby to develop the "weight" control faculty of the mother in the child.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Food safety infringement-Who will go to jail?

If a food sample is found to be below the standards prescribed or is not safe as per the laid down criteria, who is to be blamed? The retailer, wholesaler, distributor, the warehouse owner or the manufacturer. It is true that the onus of proof regarding food safety and quality squarely lies with the manufacturing company. Unfortunately if the company is in the public sector, cooperative sector, small scale sector or corporate sector how can the government prosecute a company? Of course government can cancel the license or impose heavy fines but if the crime is serious some one has to go to the jail after due judicial decision to that effect. Who will go to the jail? Each manufacturer is supposed to designate one person as the "fall guy" for going to jail if there is an indictment under the food safety law. Is this fair? Probably such issues are not peculiar to India as reflected by the recent debate in a country like the US regarding the rationale of sending one person to jail for the fault of the system. Read further below:

One high profile case was the prosecution of Eric and Ryan Jensen in Colorado. This case is particularly scary because federal prosecutors used the Park Doctrine to prosecute the Jensens. The Park Doctrine creates strict liability. It provides that a responsible corporate official can be held liable for a first time misdemeanor.  (and possible subsequent felony) without proof that the corporate official acted with intent or even negligence, and even if such corporate official did not have any actual knowledge of, or participation in, the specific offense. It means executives may be held criminally responsible for the short-cuts, negligence, wrong-doings of their employees, simply because they "should have" known or supervised or simply because they were in a position of authority over employees or organization that committed wrongdoing. Executives can no longer insulate themselves from prosecution simply because they aren't in the trenches. This can be a daunting proposition for executives of large corporations that are managing hundreds or thousands of employees and have the inability to monitor everyone and everything at all times.   The Jensens were the primary principals in a farming operation known as Jensen Farms in Granada, Colorado.  Jensen Farms supplied cantaloupe to the likes of Walmart and Kroger. The Jensens were tasked with, among other things, operating a conveyor system that cleaned and packaged cantaloupe from the farm.  In or around May 2011, the Jensens revamped the conveyor system that cleaned the cantaloupe. The new conveyor system was never outfitted with the chlorine spray function, which would have reduced the risk of microbial contamination of fruit.  Starting in or about July 2011, Jensen Farms sent out cantaloupe contaminated with listeria that the Government alleges and the Jensens conceded killed at least 33 individuals and caused illnesses in at least 147 people.  The Jensens pled guilty to misdemeanors and were sentenced to a five year probation terms with six months home detention. The prosecution of Eric and Ryan Jensen is significant because there was absolutely no evidence that the Jensens knew the cantaloupe was adulterated before it was sent out into commerce. Instead, all the Government could show is that the Jensens should have been aware that the cantaloupes could be contaminated because the chlorine spray was not used." 

In India a deputy manager of a large cooperative dairy was sentenced for imprisoned for 6 months in May 2014 after one of the samples supplied from his unit was not found to conform to mandatory specifications. One can only sympathize with this official because the punishment is for a lapse on the part of the production system staffed with many workers at different levels. In a manufacturing facility hundreds of workers might be working and the management system could be several tier deep and how can one particular individual be held responsible for the collective failure? After all the employees are paid to work under certain well laid down guidelines and disciplined way but does the pay include the risk involved in going to jail for faulty products from the production line? What is the responsibility of the top management or the owners of the factory when such incidences take place? As they are the beneficiary when it comes to profit taking, logically they should be the one who should go to jail. The government must separate organizations and individuals when it comes to food laws infringement. While individuals who are proved to be adulterating the food callously ignoring the health dangers of the consumer could be punished by imprisonment, organizations must be monetarily punished to the maximum extent possible which can hit them where it hurts. The impact of jailing can have long term implications as less and less persons will opt for training in food technology because of such a "Damocles sword" hanging over their career!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Food subsidies in India-New suggestions to make them more rationale

The so called Food Security Act is an anachronism as it was based on a populist policy with the sole aim of collecting votes during election time from an electorate thought to be obliged to the political party that piloted the bill. The then government forgot that it was pledging future earnings of the country in perpetuating this dole out year after year working out to more than 1 lakh crore rupees an year! Revisiting this Act by the new government raised some hope that the senseless commitment of future generations to sustain the program might turn out to be a millstone around the neck of the nation. The Shantakumat committee set up to review the Act has submitted its recommendations recently wasting minimum time as is usually the case with government set up commissions. A perusal of the report gives hope that there would be drastic revision of the Act soon if government is serious about its intentions. A gist of the report is reproduced below which gives an insight into the thoughts of the experts who did a commendable job in record time. 

The government should reduce coverage under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to 40% of the population from 67% and defer implementation of the scheme in states which have not complied with the rollout conditions, a panel appointed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recommended. The panel headed by former food minister Shanta Kumar submitted the report to the PM on Wednesday. Reforming the subsidy regime is a key plan of Modi's economic reforms. It has recommended far reaching changes in the functioning of the state-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) and the minimum support price (MSP) regime. It has suggested that the food grain under NFSA for those under the below poverty line should be raised to 7kg per person from the current norm of 5 kg. It has also called for moving to a direct cast transfer regime for food subsidy and estimates that the savings on food subsidy could be as much as Rs 30,000 crore per year. "Move to cash transfer and start with 53 million-plus cities. The states which are deficit in grains should be given the option of either grain or cash," said a source. The panel has also suggested that fertilizer subsidy should be paid to farmers directly on per hectare basis which comes to around Rs 7,000 per hectare. "This will result in saving nearly Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 crore annually in fertilizer subsidy," the source said. There should be a liquidation policy which will kick in immediately when the stocks go beyond the buffer stock limit. At present, FCI sells in open market or exports after approval cabinet which some experts say raises its carrying cost. "FCI should get a free hand," the source said. The panel has recommended that the name of FCI be changed. "The new of FCI will be akin to an Agency for Innovations in Food Management System with a primary focus to create competition in every segment of food grain supply chain, some procurement to stocking to movement and finally distribution in public distribution system so that the overall costs of the system are substantially reduced, leakages plugged and it serves large no of consumers and farmers," the source said. The panel has said that FCI should move its procurement move to eastern states. "If any state is giving bonus, the payment for the extra procurement should be borne by that state and not FCI," the source said. It has also suggested that there should be an upper limit on taxes imposed by states for procurement. For example, Punjab has 14.5% tax while Gujarat has less than 2%. "The upper limit should be 4%," the source said. The FCI should revamp its grain handling and stocking operations, the committee has recommended. It should move to bulk handling and mechanize the operations to reduce its dependence on so called "labour gangs." Temporary storage should be done away with gradually with no grain stock remaining for more than three months. The agency should run "grain trains" for moving food grains. The stocking operations should be handed over to the Central Warehousing Corporation, state warehousing corporations. The private sector should also be encouraged to build silos. All existing silos of FCI should be revamped, the panel has recommended. The country needs 10 million tones capacity of storage."Government needs to revisit its MSP policy. Currently, MSPs are announced for 23 commodities, but effectively price support operates primarily in what and rice and that too in selected states," the source said.

Suggestions like reducing the coverage to include only deserving population, reforming Food Corporation of India, reducing taxes on grains, moving to cash transfer mode for delivery, increasing the quantum receivable by a person by 40%, revising the norms for distribution of fertilizer subsidy to farmers, changing the minimum support price system etc will have far reaching benefits if implemented sincerely. There is one area where the Panel did not seem to have bestowed its attention and that pertains to integrating food security with nutrition security. Instead of a cereal only policy under NFSA, probably pulses at least could have been included in the benefit basket. The Andhra Pradesh model implemented recently under a new scheme provides 9 commodities including pulses, oil, salt etc though the coverage is comparatively small targeting certain poor segments of the population. Probably as a socially responsible country India must aim to improve the nutritional status of the poor people through supply of such a balanced food basket. 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Water needs-Food industry Vs Agriculture, opposing pressures!

Soda which is the international name given to sweetened fizz drinks like Coke and Pepsi is gain in troubled 'waters"; literally! These beverages are focus of attention from health critics as well as conservationists who blame the bottlers for over utilization of water and environmental pollution through the sludge they let out. Farmers are agitating wherever the soda plants are located because of their fear that such massive extraction of ground water causes water shortage affecting their livelihood. Interestingly the two soda giants are also courting controversy in their own country, USA because of the widely held perception that their products sweetened with sugar cause many health disorders including obesity. Because of their vice-like grip on the political class that rule the country, they are never restrained from hawking their "potion", especially to young kids. In India the Delhi Government has laid red carpet for foreign investors in the hope that their investments will generate significant employment in the country. Unfortunately the impact of this open arm policy on the common man is never kept in mind when such FDI proposals are cleared. The Coke bottling plant to be set up in Gujarat is in the news recently because of the reckless policy of the state government in allotting huge volume of water from Narmada river which is supposed to be meant for agriculture sector. Here are the details of the drama unfolding in that state and the common man is just a mute spectator on the sidelines unable to do any thing to stop this loot of public water resources.

"Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola is finding itself in troubled waters, again. After rows over water usage at its plants in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh, it is now the turn of its Gujarat factory.Congress leader Ahmed Patel has questioned the Gujarat government's decision to allot to a Coca-Cola plant over three million litres of water a day from the Sardar Sarovar Dam, even as many villages in Sanand go without water.In a letter to Chief Minister Anandiben Patel on October 10, Patel expressed concern over her government's September decision and noted that the dam had been built to provide water to drought-prone parts of North Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch. Patel highlighted concerns raised by non-government organisations and citizens' groups over the alleged daily effluent discharge of 450 kilolitres by the plant, which executives of the multinational beverage company said were baseless because the unit was located in a no-effluent industrial cluster. Coca-Cola India executives did not want to get drawn into the controversy. They said the company had taken all approvals for the plant and any response to Patel's letter should come from the Gujarat chief minister, to whom it was addressed. The plant, being set up by Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, the largest bottling partner of Coca-Cola India, will be the company's second unit in Gujarat. Coca-Cola has a plant in Goblej in Kheda district, its second-largest in the country after the Dasna unit in Uttar Pradesh. The Gujarat government has allotted 185,000 square metres to the company to make sweetened aerated drinks like Coke, Sprite, Fanta and Thums Up".

Governments never seem to learn any lesson from past experiences as evidenced by the attitude of the Gujarat Government in allocating precious natural resources especially after the humiliating retreat of this soft rink giant from Kerala a few years ago because of the same problem. Politician-industry nexus is not new in India and diversion of water from dams built for irrigation to sugar mills and breweries in Maharashtra is another example of this nebulous practice. A moot question that the country faces is whether a health debilitating beverage industry can be given priority over food production when half the population in the country does not have adequate food to satisfy their hunger? No body is denying the fact that food industry is invariably water guzzlers because huge quantity of water is absolutely necessary to maintain safety and quality of the end products. But locating them in proximity to irrigated agricultural lands cannot be condoned. It is not understandable why these synthetic beverage manufacturers are forced to make nutritionally better products rather than easily salable junk foods like potato chips and sugar sweetened drinks. If this trend continues India may be following the foot steps of America where one in three citizens are obese with bloated bodies spending billions of dollars for treating their diseases!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Paper from plastics! An environment friendly technology

A new technology called Cronology developed in Mexico seems to be headed for adoption by the paper industry which is being criticized by the environmentalist for massive deforestation in obtaining their input materials. An indirect beneficiary will be the plastic waste recycling industry which seeks to reduce the environment pollution through reprocessing the plastic waste into useful products. While recycling does help in getting a temporary reprieve in terms of pollution, ultimately plastics end up in landfills staying there for more than 800 years without getting degraded. The paper obtained by the new technology is claimed to be photodegradable decomposing within 6 months. Here is a take on this exciting technological development about which lot will be heard in the coming years.

"A group of young entrepreneurs from Mexico has developed a system that converts PET bottles into mineral paper and which they claim will save up to 20 trees and 56,000 liters of water per ton of paper produced. The photodegradable, waterproof paper can be used to print books, boxes and general stationery. "By not cutting trees, nor using water we reduce costs and help the planet," says Ever Adrian Nava, cofounder of the Cronology company, located in Ecatepec, a municipality in Mexico State, just north from Mexico City. The Cronology process is claimed to be 15 percent cheaper than traditional paper manufacture because it doesn't use chemicals, like chlorine, or water. Although countries like Spain and Taiwan already use similar processes to manufacture mineral paper (also known as peta paper or stone paper), its developers say the Cronology system is four times cheaper than conventional methods. The original idea for this type of paper is to reduce production costs and deforestation. Mexico currently produces 700,000 tons of paper each year, mostly for books and notebooks, but also for wrapping papers and toilet paper. Ever Nava says that producing one ton of traditional paper has an effect on the environment for 100 years, but that mineral paper eliminates that, with 235 kg (518 lb) of pellets, or PET beads, obtained using recycled plastic bottles, calcium carbonate and stone, capable of producing a ton of the mineral paper. "The mineral paper is stronger than the standard, you can not break it with your hands, it is waterproof, has the quality of being photodegradable and only absorbs the necessary amount of ink when printing," says Ever Nava. Recycled plastic bottles are first crushed with various pieces of calcium carbon to form pellets (plastic beads), which are then subjected to a casting process at over a 100° C (212° F), before being rolled to form large sheets of paper. The paper degrades in just six months, with the company saying the only downside is that ink gels can't be used on it because they contain alcohol, which the paper does not support."

What is more interesting is the water saved by this process in making high quality paper compared to traditional paper making from wood. Already forests are being denuded in South America massively for planting Palm plants for oil. Demand for palm oil, one of the cheapest oils in the world is literally exploding because of its dual utility as a food ingredient as well as a fossil fuel substitute. PET, also known as polyester, is chemically Polyethylene Terephthalate and world produces about 25 million tons annually out of which only 30% is used for bottle production remaining going into textile industry. Also known as Dacron or Terylene or Lavasa, fabrics made from PET are extraordinarily strong and crease resistant. The new technology to convert PET into paper can thus be a large industry capable of solving one of the most vexing issues facing mankind viz disposing of 25 million tons of PET into useful products with excellent environmental credentials. Another beauty is that the technology uses comparatively lower temperatures, about 100C while for recycling it has to be done at temperatures beyond 250C. Thus PET paper production technology can be a win-win situation for all the stake holders connected with PET industry.  


"Small is beautiful"- For whom, industry or the consumer?

Who does not remember the famous book "Small is beautiful: A collection of Essays As If People Mattered" by the reputed British economist E.F Schumacher. He championed the cause of small, appropriate technologies which are claimed to empower people more compared to the "bigger is better" catch phrase that is prevalent to day. Whether the beverage industry which has more and more youngsters in its vice like grip, churning out billions of bottles of sugar sweetened soda, has taken inspiration from Mr Schumacher or not, the current trend in manufacture of soda is to reduce the size of the soda bottle or can giving an impression that it will help the consumers in taking less and less of these drinks. But how can the industry do this considering that if it really works, its sale will plummet down dramatically? The ground reality shows that the beverage industry is booming after the introduction of small packs contrary to the impression that such down sizing will cut down soda consumption! Here is a take on this contradiction happening in the soda capital of the world viz USA. 

"Soda sales may be in a slump, but one sliver of the soft drink market—the segment that comes in smaller than usual sizes, including those adorably tiny 7.5-ounce cans—is booming.  What's especially curious about the trend is that sales have been taking off even though the smaller packages offer far worse value to consumers. This week, the Associated Press explored this odd scenario, in which consumers are clamoring to buy Coke, Pepsi, and other sodas in unconventionally smaller sized packaging, notably the 7.5-ounce mini can that's generally sold in eight-packs in stores. Previously, the Wall Street Journal reported that sales of smaller Coca-Cola packages—including the mini cans, as well as 8-ounce glass bottles and 1.25-liter plastic bottles—were up 9% through the first 10 months of 2014. During the same time period, sales of regular old 12-ounce cans and 2-liter bottles were as flat as a bottle of week-old Coke. Beyond their nontraditional size, what all of the smaller soda items have in common is that they're "premium-priced packages." Yes, the value proposition in the trendy category is that you not only get less product, but you get to pay more for the privilege. Coca-Cola estimates that consumers typically pay 31¢ for each traditional 12-ounce Coke purchased in a 12- or 24-pack at the supermarket. By contrast, the average price per 7.5-ounce mini can breaks down to 40¢ a pop."

We may recall that when measures were proposed to restrict the sale of jumbo sized soda bottles in New York, industry got the proposal squashed through judicial intervention under the pretext that such policies infringe on the fundamental rights of a citizen in deciding what to buy for himself! Look at the situation now when the very same industry is offering smaller sized versions after its market research provided a clue that people will buy more and more smaller packs compared to larger ones resulting in more frequent consumption! Interestingly consumers have to pay more for smaller sized versions though they may not be realizing it at the time of purchase. This trickery is very common in India where food industry as a whole indulges in this strategy, the intention being to expand the clientele base to include consumers in the lower income bracket who otherwise could not afford high priced larger packs..Consumers seem to be happy while he is being cheated, to hear the industry repeating ad libitum the worn out industry slogan "consumer is the king" where as he really turns out a sucker in the bargain!


Monday, January 19, 2015

The Turmeric "mystery"-Is it really as iconic as it is made out to be?

It was only recently this Blogger put up a piece regarding the role played by black pepper in enhancing the health protective properties associated with phytochemicals contained in the popular Asian condiment turmeric. It is a fact that curcumin, one of the more active constituents of turmeric, has significant anti-inflammatory properties, preventing many diseases that afflict mankind and Asians who consume curry powder formulations containing turmeric and black pepper are invariably found to be healthier, in spite of wide spread poverty all around. It was also realized that curcumin absorption across the intestine is much more efficient when turmeric is part of a preparation containing high fat levels. Now comes a new report indicating that curcumin can be formulated to be a therapeutic product or well being product through the technique of nano emulsification. Here is a gist of this report which appears to have significant implications for many population not consuming turmeric regularly in their daily diet. 

"A modified formulation of curcumin, a naturally occurring compound found in turmeric, releases its anti-inflammatory goodness throughout the body, the findings showed. Although known for promoting health by lowering inflammation, currently available curcumin supplements are not absorbed well by the body. Most curcumin in food or supplements stays in the gastrointestinal tract, and any portion that is absorbed is metabolised quickly. "This study suggests that we have identified a better and more effective way to deliver curcumin and know what diseases to use it for so that we can take advantage of its anti-inflammatory power," said lead author of the study Nicholas Young from Ohio State University. Curcumin powder mixed with castor oil and polyethylene glycol in a process called nano-emulsion, has the best potential against macrophage-associated inflammation, the researchers found in a mice study."

The fact that turmeric itself was used in the nano emulsion formulation is significant by itself because most products in the market to day are based on extracted curcumin. However there seems to be large wastage of curcumin in the gastrointestinal tract as it is not absorbed efficiently due to its poor solubility in aqueous phase. Though the above study is based on rat experiments, the authors who pioneered the work feel that same results would hold good in human beings also. It is a question of time before further proof of this hypothesis will emerge as it has excited many scientists across the world. To think of a pill containing low doses of turmeric or curcumin for every day use to preempt many diseases is really exciting. The possibility that higher doses can be prepared in deliverable format to cure certain diseases is also good news for millions who are suffering from such dIseases

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Food wastes-Bakery foods most wasted!

Why do people throw away perfectly safe and good quality food without consuming them? Probably a high degree of insensitivity to the sufferings of millions of fellow denizens who have no or little access to food due to economic compulsions. If some of the reports are to be believed the total quantum of food wasted across the world can feed almost 2 billion people, almost 30% of current world population! It is difficult to believe this figure though there is no independent data to confirm or challenge these staggering estimates. In a country like the UK, it is believed that about 24 million slices of bread are thrown way though they were of acceptable eating quality. Across Europe one estimate puts the quantity of food waste at about 90 million tons! Interestingly it appears bakery products top the list of food items wasted followed by pastry items like cakes. Here is a take on this perplexing issue: 

"Bread, biscuits and cakes rank high on the list of food wasted, so to what extent can bakery manufacturers drive environmental progress and help reduce food wastage? Paul Featherstone, group director of food recycler, SugaRich, investigated for Biscuit World. In April 2014, the House of Lords EU Committee revealed startling findings from their 'Counting the Cost of Food Waste: EU Food Waste Prevention' report1. At least 90 million tones of food is said to be wasted across the EU every year.  According to a report into UK food waste published in November 2013 by the Waste Resource Action Plan (WRAP)2, bread tops the list of food thrown away uneaten with the equivalent of a staggering 24 million slices of bread wasted daily,whilst sweet treats like cakes rank high on the list too. Legislative pressures and environmental targets have gone some way to encourage progress. The EU's pledge to halve edible food waste by 2020 is an ever-pressing driver, as is the media's continued scrutiny over unsustainable surplus food practices. Commercial factors have also had a distinct part to play because, whilst some organizations want to demonstrate stronger 'green' credentials to enhance their reputation and uphold their corporate social responsibility, others simply cannot afford the ever-rising charges associated with traditional landfill disposal or anaerobic digestion" 

There could be a logic in this situation where bread and cakes are wasted comparatively in larger quantities compared to others and the reason is that they are high moisture products vulnerable to spoilage, chemical, microbiological and organoleptically. Stale bread may be safe to eat but most people cannot accept it because of undesirable textural changes and reduction of flavor associated with fresh bread. So it is with cakes also. A logical question that follows is how to cut down on this colossal waste and whose responsibility it is to do that? Bakery industry probably will have to innovate further to prevent quality changes perceptible to the consumer so that they are not discarded on this account. On the part of the consumer there must be conscious attempt to buy just enough quantities for home consumption without resorting to storing them for long considering the susceptibility of bread to staling. Another point consumer has to remember is that staling phenomenon due to starch retrogradation is reversible by heat and naturally during toasting bread will regain its quality almost completely. Refrigeration must be resorted to if bread is to be stored for more than 2-3 days to prevent fungal spoilage. There is thus considerable scope to bring down wastage vis-a-vis bakery products if adequate care is taken by the industry as well as the consumer.


Monday, January 12, 2015

New role of Omega-3 fatty acids-A diabetic cure?

Omega-3 acids like DHA are known to play a vital role in preventing heart ailments and other diseases but it was never implicated in tackling the metabolic syndrome that affects almost 20% of the world population. Essential fatty acids or better known as EFA are present in many foods but fish is supposed to be top source and those predominantly eating fish are supposed to be least suffering from heart disease. Whether it is alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the short chain EFA or Docosahexaenoic(DHA), the long chain polyunsaturated version (PUFA), humans cannot synthesise them and hence must be ingested through the diet. While plant sources like flax seed, hemp seed, soybean, rapeseed, chia seed, leafy vegetables, walnut etc are good sources of LA or ALA, only fish and some sea foods can provide PUFA. The efficiency of converting short chain EFA into more biologically active PUFA is rather low in humans and hence the push for consuming fish regularly for good health. Recent reports implicating a role for DHA in preventing or curing diabetes, found in rat experiments, probably may be path breaking in terms of its impact on human beings, if proved true. Here is a take on this new development coming from one of the reputed universities in the US. 

"Research carried out at the University of California (UC), Davis and the University of Barcelona has uncovered an enzyme inhibitor found to prevent and reverse the effects of diabetes in obese mice. In addition to discovering a potential form of treatment for the disease, scientists say the study has shone new light on healthy properties of fatty acids. The researchers have shown the enzyme called soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) to be capable of reducing the symptoms of diabetes in mice by stabilizing metabolites in an omega-3 acid called DHA.  Previously observed in the lab at UC Davis, the researchers say that the drug they are working on has either reduced or reversed diabetes-related ailments such as renal failure, hypertension, diabetic pain, hardening of the arteries and heart failure. Now research conducted by Joan Clària, an associate professor at the Barcelona School of Medicine, takes things a little further. She reported the discovery that for mice that happen to have higher levels of certain fatty acids, the drug actually provided a cure for the disease. "Our previous studies show the drug we are working on will reduce the symptoms of diabetes in mice by itself," says Dr. Bruce Hammock, who runs the Hammock Laboratory of Pesticide Biotechnology at UC Davis. "But the excitement about Joan Clària's work is that if the mice have a genetically increased level of omega-3 fatty acids, the drug offers prevention or cure in mice." Another UC Davis researcher, who is not involved in this study, says that the apparent link between stabilizing the metabolites in DHA and curing the symptoms of diabetes increases understanding of the impacts of omega-3 fatty acids on well being. "This exciting research brings mechanistic detail to understanding how omega-3 fatty acids in the diet exert important health effects," said J. Bruce German, director of the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute, Department of Food Science and Technology."

If these findings are reproduced with human trials further development may be necessary before an appropriate drug is formulated. The finding that those mice having high levels of omega-3 fatty acids genetically are less vulnerable to diabetes or it can be cured if the new drug is administered is very encouraging. World wide people suffering from Type II diabetes are depending on synthetic drugs to overcome insufficient insulin production or insulin insensitivity and the new approach may be more rewarding for them as it uses the natural enzymes rather than chemical drugs. Progressive deterioration in diabetic people is caused by the ineffectiveness of any drug over a long period of use, ultimately ending up with direct insulin shots to control blood sugar. Hopefully this will not happen with this new drug proposed by the above innovators.


Food safety-Whose baby it is in Kerala?

There was a time when Prevention of food Adulteration Act of 1956 )PFA) was ruling the roost till Government of India suddenly decided to replace it with the new Food Safety and Standards Act in 2006 (FSSA)which took more than five years to bring to fruition. An "Authority" was set up for implementing the regulations though it had no real authority to do much when it comes to violations happening in different states in which the enforcement responsibility is vested. One of the very first things the Authority did was a typical bureaucratic firman that every food handler must register with it and get a license, reminiscent of our early years of independence when every human activity was sought to be regulated through the much hated "license raj"! There is very little improvements at the ground level as far as food adulteration incidences are concerned and it is "happy merry go around" for food criminals and fraudsters who seem to have a vice-like grip on the consumers of this country. Look at the situation in Kerala where two different departments are fighting for hegemony as to who has the power to "inspection" of foods suspected of adulteration! Read further about this sorry state of affairs vis-a-vis the well being of the citizen! 

"Even after the full-fledged Food Safety and Standards Act-2006 came into existence, there is no clarity as to which agency should conduct the inspection of the food sold in the State - the Food Safety Department or the Health Department. Reply to an RTI query submitted on October 16, 2014, shows that the authority to conduct food inspection is vested with the Food Safety Department, not the Health Department."The lack of clarity in the matter is the primary reason why the Food Safety and Standards Act could not be implemented successfully in Kerala," says sources in the Health Department."Call it a paradox. The Health Department, which has around 5,000 staff, carries out all the activities pertaining to food safety, but without any legal backing. Meanwhile, the Food Safety Department, which is legally responsible for such activities, is facing severe staff shortage. The issue could have been easily sorted out if the Health Department officials were given the power to conduct food safety inspections," they pointed out. The RTI report says that as per a  government circular (66562/RC(3)/2012 LSGD), the role of a Health Inspector is restricted to field inspection. The local bodies issues licence based on the inspection conducted by a Health Inspector.  "But, that is a circular, not a law,"  said the sources.The RTI report further points out that according to the Food Safety and Standards Act, a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner is mandatory, not the health card issued by the Health Department. "So, where is the legal backing for the inspections being carried out by the Health Department? Effective checking would be possible only if both the departments go hand-in-hand. In every gramapanchayat, there is one health inspector, and two or more junior health inspectors. Sadly, the government has not been able to utilise their services, and has restricted them to the areas of immunisation, family planning and prevention of non-communicable disease, which do not require strict monitoring," said the sources.The Health Department has a tendency to follow the Madras Public Health Act-1939 and the Travancore Cochin Public Health Act-1955 quite often. However, reply to another RTI query moved in the Health Department on November 22, 2014, states that Chapter-XII (from Section-114 to 121) that deals with food control, and sections of Madras Public Health Act that gives the Health Department power to tackle food safety issues, had been annulled with the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act. Directorate of Health Services Director Dr P K Jameela said that the Health Department had the power to intervene everything that has something to do with the well-being of the people. "Both the departments have to go hand-in-hand to make the process successful. Besides, a Unified Public Health Act can settle this issue to a great extent," she added'.

It is still not clear why the portfolio of food quality and safety is entrusted to the Ministry of Health at the Center while there is a full-fledged Ministry of Food Industries and Ministry of Consumer Affairs, either of which could have done a better job. Besides any legal or punitive action again offenders can be taken only by state authorities with clearly spelt out responsibility and accountability. Why there should be any problem at all to integrate these vigilance and prosecuting responsibilities to an integrated central agency with judicial powers is not understandable. Why not set up specialized Food Crime Courts to punish the guilty with least loss of time and send a powerful signal to criminals that they can not escape the long arm of the law through delays and obfuscation? As long as the governments in states and at the Center are not serious about these things India will prod on like this only and citizens will have to repose more faith in God to save them from harmful foods in stead of the rulers they have elected to look after their welfare!  


Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Bioplastic packing material-Poly butylene succinate for food packing

For any food to be preserved after it is processed needs a packaging material to keep out vectors, air, water and external flavor taints. The world has been used to the fossil fuel based packaging materials since long which offer a wide variety of them with different functional properties and no one thinks seriously what will happen once fossil fuels run out as they are non-renewable in nature. Not that world is not concerned about this because there are attempts here and there to develop new packaging materials based on renewable sources though their production is not very substantial yet compared to conventional plastics now in vogue. A major demand from the consumer and policy makers is that such plastics should be biodegradable as current plastics some time take as much as 800 years to degrade in soil after disposal. While biodegradable plastics are now being produced they need not necessarily be natural plant based and also all bioplastics are not necessarily biodegradable. The new breed of bioplastics now being touted around comes through fermentation route deploying microorganisms. Here is some information regarding the recently developed bioplastic from succinate generated by fermentation of organic carbon sources from plants.

"The research consortium has developed a way to mass produce succinic acid, one of the major ingredients of PBS. To do so, they use bacteria to convert the glucose in the "feedstock", or the raw material used to produce such bioplastics, such as wheat. "The idea is to replace the succinic acid coming from petrochemicals with bio-resourced products such as plant waste and materials from plants in agriculture," says Christophe Cotillon, project coordinator and deputy manager of the French Association for the Technical Coordination of the Agrifood Industry (ACTIA), headquartered in Paris, France. PBS has "similar qualities as existing packaging, for the interaction between the food and the packaging and in terms of texture and transparency," Cotillon tells  In tests, bio-resourced PBS was a better oxygen barrier than other bioplastics. Water barrier properties, however, need more tweaking to compete with existing packaging at keeping out water which can spoil dried food and promote microbial growth and contamination. The packaging has already been successfully tested for ricotta cheese and for beef. This product presents quite a few additional advantages. Bioresourced PBS can be used in existing production lines, meaning no financial penalties for manufacturers switching to greener materials. "Industry gets the same properties for approximately the same cost, and using the same machines," says Cotillon. Bio-resourced packaging also boosts brands' eco credentials. "If you tell the consumer that they are using bio-resourced packaging, they will prefer the idea to preserve nature." The manufacturing process could be made even greener by using energy from renewable resources, or by optimising the manufacturing process. To compete against petrochemical-based plastics, bioplastics need to meet several requirements. "If we want to push this material, we have to have better properties at the same costs," says Cotillon, "A future development step will be to improve the quality by coating the surface. And we can mix the molecules with other bio-resourced molecules to make a better quality of packaging." Bioplastics, however, could raise public concern in that it could be grown on land that would otherwise be used for food crops, and reduce food availability. "Certainly food competition is a problem," says Markus Schmidt, research associate in the Department of Materials Development, Fraunhofer Institute, in Freising, Germany. "In my opinion it would be best to use real waste products or by products from food manufacturing so there is no food competition." A statement that meets Cotillon's opinion "the biosources for PBS packaging can come from plant waste." Consumers could also struggle to distinguish between biodegradable and bio-resourced. "The feedstock used [to produce bioplastics] has nothing to do with whether a material is biodegradable or not," says Kristy-Barbara Lange, head of communication at the industrial organisation European Bioplastics, "this is a misunderstanding often encountered. Biodegradability depends on the chemical structure of a material." The biodegradability of SUCCIPACK, explains Cotillon is "the same as petrochemical or current packaging."

The technology development cannot automatically lead to acceptance by the user industry, especially food processing industry for which there are strict functional and safety requirements. According to available information provided on this new plastic material, succinate based bioplastics are compatible with products like cheese and frozen meat but cannot fare well when it comes to packing moisture sensitive foods. Probably further modifications may be required to improve moisture impermeability by modifying the surface through secondary coatings and this should be technically feasible with the available knowledge in coating technology. Also relevant is the costing and unless succinate based bioplastics can compete with fossil fuel based materials currently available, it may face a rough time in the market. A big controversy that may follow such fermentation driven plastic materials is the desirability of using edible plant foods for non-food purpose, as such a "pull" might affect the food supply chain adversely. The contention that food wastes can be a feed source may work out if provend true.