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From time immemorial, human efforts have been primarily directed towards production and preservation of food materials. Today besides ‘food’security’ the concept of ‘nutritional security’ also holds importance. Issues of food preservation and processing, besides food quality, nutrition and safety pose a great challenge largely due to increasing population, improved economic conditions, enhanced consumer awareness, and increasing influence of climatic changes on agriculture.
There is a nationwide effort to increase food production and to distribute food on an equitable basis, and for effective outcomes, there is also a need for converting fresh produce into value-added products with increased shelf -life that are readily acceptable by consumers, thus reducing food wastage.
In this regard, CSIR has developed and commercialized a large number of technologies/process know-how that have significantly helped in reducing post-harvest losses, besides development of value-added products with high nutritive value. CSIR has several ‘firsts’ to its credit: Development of synthetic rice, vegetable milk and edible flour from groundnuts, malted foods, nutritious food supplements, ‘Amul’, infant food formula based on buffalo milk, modern parboiling process, and grain processing machinery among several others.
Presently, the focus is on developing cost-effective technology solutions which are beneficial to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the country. Several economically beneficial technologies have been developed in several areas ranging from production of oilseeds, spices, plantation products, flavors, meat and marine products to convenience and ready-to-eat foods, food packaging and food process engineering.
The current research also focuses on bridging the gap between pre- and- post-harvest sectors to support the farming community and to facilitating production of high-quality agricultural products that are suitable for processing. The initiatives of CSIR-CFTRI on ‘super foods’ like Chia, Quinoa and Teff are popular with the farmers. Bio-preservatives, biodegradable coatings & packaging materials and novel techniques like Controlled Atmosphere Storage (CAP) and Modified Atmosphere Storage (MAP) have been used for shelf-life extension.
Nutrition research has been one of the earliest activities of CSIR-CFTRI. After studies on macro-and micro-nutrients, natural and processed foods, efforts were made in nutritional evaluation of foods, food fortification, and community nutrition.
In the area of nutraceuticals, CSIR has tirelessly worked on components known for their medicinal value, innovative modification of foods, like blending of oils and investigations on the antioxidant activities of edible oil as well as inedible oil parts of a variety of foods/plant materials.
Extensive studies have been carried out on spices, herbs and other plant sources to investigate their properties such as hypolipidemic effect, anti-inflammatory effect, anti-lithogenic effect, antidiabetic effect, digestive stimulant action, hepato-protective property, anti-mutagenicity, anti-metastatic activity, anti-platelet aggregation activity and antioxidants.
Research in the area of designing ‘healthy oil blends’, designer oils and understanding the benefits of fructo-oligosaccharides and xylo-oligosaccharides has many potential benefits. CSIR-IHBT, NIEST, NIIST are also working in this area and have come out with many novel food products, such as Stevia-based natural sweetener, functional food products from buckwheat and ready-to-eat ethnic foods.
( The write-up is a feature from Unit of Science Dissemination, USD, CSIR.)