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As a newborn steps into this world with its first cry, the mother’s pivotal role in satisfying her baby’s need for sustenance becomes all too clear. It is breast milk ― a nectar for infants ― that is the best first food as it naturally contains all the components of healthy infant nutrition in correct proportions. It is easily digestible, promotes optimum growth, development and immunity.
Nonetheless, there are women who are unable to breast feed due to various physiological reasons. Such infants have to depend upon specially designed infant foods, available in the market. Thanks to scientists of CSIR- Central Food Technological Research InstituteCSIR- CFTRI, Mysore, India, an indegenous infant food was prepared thus reducing the dependency on imported foreign infant food brands. This development happened over five decades ago and brought a new dimension to the nations nutrition security. Prior to 1960, the supply of infant foods meant a heavy burden on our foreign exchange reserves. Today it is common for parents to rely on commercially sold infant foods, due to the scientific innovation that has been key to manufacturing these foods in India.
Amul, a baby food based on CSIR -CFTRI technology has been a household name in India for decades. The genesis of this tasty and nutritious infant formulation was done by CFTRI. Earlier to the development of CSIR-CFTRI’s baby food formulation, buffalo’s milk, was considered unsuitable for easy digestion by a baby. However, CSIR -CFTRI technology proved that buffalo’s milk could be turned into a nourishing infant food. This achievement gave a significant boost to the Indian dairy industry, while fulfilling the country’s requirement of having indigenous technology to manufacture infant foods. The addition of DL-methionine to the product helped enhance its nutrition profile for optimum growth and development of the infant. Lactose-free, soya-based, hypoallergenic infant food formulations were also developed by CSIR-CFTRI.
CSIR-CFTRI has developed the technology for the production of low lactose milk for babies with lactose intolerance, by using permeabilized yeast cells or specific enzymes that hydrolyze lactose to glucose and galactose. ‘Lactulose’ containing infant formula has also been developed, which is specially for babies fed on artificial baby foods, as they lack adequate growth of beneficial microflora, which is found in babies fed on mother’s milk.
Healthy weaning foods that are easy to digest were made from malted cereals/millets and germinated green gram. Novel and cost-effective weaning foods were made from proteins isolated from oilseeds. One such product was made from whole soy flour with spray-dried soy protein. This product was fortified with methionine, vitamins and minerals, contained 26% protein and 18% fat.
In 1966, Bal-Amul, the first weaning food was developed and manufactured by CSIR- CFTRI was launched in India. This soy-fortified weaning food became very popular at that time. In 1970’s scientists at CSIR- CFTRI developed a method for making whole soy flour in India and created low-cost protein food that was a blend of wheat and soy flours (70:30).
Bal-Ahar, was a soy-fortified dietary supplement that contained soy flour, cottonseed or peanut flour and dry milk. Designed to replace soy based imported weaning foods, Bal-Ahar was developed as part of a UNESCO project. Many energy foods as nutritional supplements, developed by CSIR-CFTRI, have been distributed in many nutrition intervention programmes of different states, in various social welfare projects and to the needy during disaster relief activities.
Whether it is food for newborns or those with special nutritional needs including infants in the weaning phase who require supplementary food, CSIR -CFTRI technologies have touched the Indian household in many ways and it shall continue to do so as the baby food industry marches ahead to serve the nation.