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CSIR technology aids sugarcane juice preservation — India’s answer to sugary soft drinks

28 Jan 2017

Sugarcane juice can easily be India’s answer to sugary soft drinks which are widely believed to refresh the body after jogging, aerobics and exercise. The fact is that drinking one can of soda per day can increase the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by 22 per cent.

India is one of the leading producers of sugarcane in the world. No beverage stands a chance to compete with sugarcane juice as it is loaded with abundant carbohydrates, proteins, minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and potassium, and vitamins A, B-complex, and C.

Sugarcane juice has low glycemic index due to the presence of complex sugars and hence good for even diabetic population. The nutrients of this juice strengthen liver, which is useful during jaundice. Unlike other sweet drinks, which hurt teeth, sugarcane contains a host of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, which help build your teeth enamel. And yet, its consumption is limited to roadside crushers and only in a specific season. The presence of bacteria and yeast in the juice causes quick fermentation, making the sugarcane juice unfit to compete in the massive Indian beverage market.

Sugarcane juice is a great option by preservation and packaging technologies.

“By making sugarcane juice fit for consumption for three to five months from the date of manufacture, given its popularity to beat the heat, it is expected to become multi-crore industry, directly benefitting the farmers, according to Dr. Alok Dhawan, Director, IITR.

Seven laboratories of CSIR have come together to work in a mission mode in three focus areas, namely milk and beverages, edible oils and food storage. Lucknow-based CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) is spearheading the mission. It is not going to be an easy task as scientists from different disciplines would have to work together and find solutions to complex problems of food safety.

“It is true that scientists from different disciplines, for example, physics, chemistry, economics, psychology, biology, don’t often get the opportunity to mingle and put their collective wisdom together,’ says Dr Girish Sahni, Director General, CSIR.

India is frontrunner in nuclear science and technology and yet the issue of food irradiation lingered at the cost of enormous quantities of fruits and vegetables perishing in supply chains. Irradiation is a well-established process of exposing foodstuffs to ionizing radiation.

Ionizing radiation is energy that can be transmitted without direct contact in the targeted food. This treatment is used to preserve food, reduce the risk of food borne illness, prevent the spread of invasive pests, and delay or eliminate sprouting or ripening. Department of Atomic Energy has recently appointed the head of its outreach program to use this and other nuclear technologies for the benefit of both producers and consumers of food.

Scientists at CSIR have decided to take on the menace of food adulteration and loss across supply chain due to decomposition. Every year food worth Rs. 92,000 crore gets spoiled before reaching consumer and 13,000 “Made in India” items were rejected by the US FDA during 2011-2015 which severely hurt India’s economic interests.

The Food safety mission, called FOCUS, aims to bring together industry giants like Amul, ITC and FCI on board to create a robust system and help meet challenges of feeding a large, geographically dispersed population, millions of whom are poor and malnourished.

{Feature has been uploaded by CSIR (Unit for Science Dissemination), Ministry of Science & Technology, New Delhi}.

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