Food Chains to Gain from the Railway Budget

Food Chains to Gain from the Railway Budget

The Railway Budget has brought is some good news for the food industry. The e-catering service experiment has been going on since September 2014 on the Delhi – Amritsar section, on a trial basis in non-pantry car trains. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has announced that e-catering services will be extended to many more trains. Presently it has e-catering facility has been extended to 120 trains and a number of trains will be added to the list every few days.

Rail travelers will also be able to order food through the IRCTC online platform. When they book their tickets they can also order their choice of foods. There is a wide choice of foods for passengers now, including local foods.  Passengers can also send an SMS with “MEAL <PNR>” at 139 written in it. List of E-catering trains is available on the IRCTC website.

The railways are working to integrate with the best food chains in the country but have selected Jubilant Food Works Ltd. to try out this experiment first. Jubilant Foods Works Ltd. that runs the Domino’s Pizza portfolio in India has been selected to supply pizzas to passengers on a trial basis. Pizzas will be available on 12 stations for the present time till the trial in on. The stations are Agra Cantt. (AGC),Alwar, Jaipur, Ambala, Jalandhar Cantt, Mathura Junction, Muzzafar Nagar, New Delhi, Pathankot Cantt, VAPI, Bharuch and Vadodara.

It seems that now passengers will be able to place an order for a pizza if they are travelling in a train that does not have a pantry car. They can order their choice of pizzas either online or through a mobile phone. The ordered pizza will served at the seat as the train travels enroute. Depending on the response from the customers, the facility will be extended to cover more trains.

Railway also intends to set up Base Kitchens in specified Divisions to be run by highly credible agencies for serving quality food to the large number of railway passengers.


Government is Regularly Monitoring Pesticide Residues

Government is Regularly Monitoring Pesticide Residues

Speaking in the Lok Sabha, the Minister of State for Agriculture Dr.Sanjeev Kumar Balyan said that samples of vegetables and fruits are now collected under a new programme. This programme has been initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture and is known as Monitoring ofPesticide Residues at National Level. Even though media has reported the use of toxic substances like calcium carbide and oxytocin for early ripening of fruits and vegetables no pesticide residues have been found in the samples collected recently under this new programme.  Out of 25,664 vegetable samples about 2.9% (764) samples were found to contain pesticide residues above MRL in the years between 2011 and 2014. Residues above MRL were detected only in 88, samples out of the 7,501 samples of fruit that were collected. None of the pesticides detected were those that are banned.

In other information given to the Lok Sabha the Minister said that the Central Government undertakes to conduct safe pesticide use awareness campaigns on print media, electronic media and hoardings with the help of Central Integrated Pest Management Centres of Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage. The State Department of Agriculture also conduct ‘Farmers Field Schools’ to educate farmers regarding safe and judicious use ofpesticides, use of bio-pesticides/ bio-fertilizers etc.

According to the Agricultural Ministry a campaign is being run, known as ‘Grow Safe Food.’ This programme has the agenda to convey to farmers and stakeholders the safe and judicious use of pesticides. They use hoardings and banners in regional languages placed in Gram Panchayats and in rural areas to convey the message of safe pesticide use by teaching them the five principles like

  • Use the right pesticides on the right crop,
  • Against those pests for which the pesticide has been approved
  • At the right time
  • Only in approved doses
  • As per approved method of application

The Registration Committee constituted under the provisions of the Insecticides Act, 1968 registers pesticides only after establishing their safety to human, animal and environmental health. From time to time, they conduct technical reviews to ascertain if the pesticides continue to be safe and their use is permitted only if found safe.

The use of ethylene gas, in low concentration, has been found safe for use in ripening fruits but Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations has prohibited the  sale of fruits which have been artificially ripened with acetylene gas. This gas is also known as carbide gas because it is produced from calcium carbide.

The Commissioners of Food Safety/Food (Health) Authority of States/UTs who are responsible for implementation of the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 and its Rules/Regulations in their States/UTs have been requested to keep a strict vigil against use of carbide gas and other hazardous chemicals for ripening fruit. The State Governments have also been advised to educate the general public about the consumption of artificially ripened fruit with the help of mass electronic media.

Report to food authority if you find water can sans ISI symbol

The Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) has appealed to the general public to inform the authority if they come across any packaged drinking water manufacturing unit selling its cans without ISI symbol.

The public can inform the Designated Officer of FSSA, NPC hospital premises, Nazarbad, Mysuru, either through phone on 0821-2438144

All packaged drinking water units have been instructed to strictly adhere to the safety parameters prescribed for them that include using only groundwater drawn from borewell. As part of the process, water should be subjected to proper filtration, a chemical analysis for fluoride and arsenic content, and it has to be checked for bacterial and fungal contamination.

After completing the process, water should be filled in the can, sealed and stored for at least 48 hours before the same are distributed to consumers.

Strict action will be taken against the manufacturers and distributors failing to abide by the rules, said a press statement from the FSSA, Mysuru.

Packaged drinking water may after all be spurious

‘Selling such water drawn from taps in cans bearing ISI symbol amounts to cheating’

Is the packaged drinking water made available in the 20-litre cans at marriage halls and other gatherings unprocessed and spurious? Several packaged drinking water manufacturers and distributors, who had gathered for a meeting convened by the Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) in Mysuru recently alleged that some unscrupulous distributors were fraudulently filling the cans with unprocessed water from taps and supplying the same to customers in the city.

Even though there is no conclusive evidence of a section of the distributors resorting to such unethical practices, the FSSA officials in Mysuru do not rule out the possibility of spurious water being supplied in the packaged drinking water cans to customers in the city. Worse, they fear that instances of such racketeering could increase in the coming summer months when demand for drinking water increases.

The packaged drinking water manufacturers and the distributors in the city expressed concern over the unethical practice bringing disrepute to their trade.

The FSSA, which has been acting against packaged drinking water units operating without obtaining the mandatory ISI symbol after obtaining licences from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and FSSA, will now be focussing even on the distributors.

“Such illegal practices by the distributors cannot be ruled out. We will begin inspecting the water cans being ferried by the distributors. They will have to produce the cash bills and other necessary documents to prove that the drinking water they are transporting is filtered, checked for fungal and bacterial contamination, ozonized and undergone all the other stipulated processes for packaged drinking water,” said Food Safety Officer H.N. Satish, who is also the in-charge Designated Officer for FSSA in Mysuru Rural.

By selling such non-purified water drawn from the taps or borewell in water cans bearing ISI symbol amounts to not only cheating, but could also prove to be a health hazard, leading to water-borne diseases and diarrhoea, added Food Safety Officer M.S. Lokesh, who is also the in-charge Designated Officer for FSSA in Mysuru Urban.

Some unscrupulous distributors are believed to be resorting to refilling the cans once packaged by drinking water manufacturer with water from a different unit, which is against the basic safety parameters. “It is not difficult to cover the water cans with caps readily available in the market,” he added. The FSSA has now made it mandatory for the distributors to be registered with them. “Though there are around 400 distributors in Mysuru city, barely 50 are registered with us”, Mr. Satish added.

The FSSA, which will carry out a drive against the distributors in the coming weeks, will collect samples of the water from the cans and subject the same to tests at the Food Testing Laboratory.

Innovations in food & beverage packaging

Friday, February 27, 2015 08:00 IST
Ramesh Kumar Sharma

Spoilage in foods is essentially a process of oxidation and can be prevented by the exclusion of air from the container. This was concluded by Gay-Lussac in early 19th century after studying Nicholas Appert’s process of preserving foods (of both vegetable and animal origin) kept in glass containers along with water (fully covering containers), heated to 87ºC-100ºC in water bath and air-tight sealed with corks.

In the mid 19th century, Louis Pasteur added a new dimension of pasteurisation concept of food preservation to Gay-Lussac’s oxidation prevention theory. Pasteur proved that micro-organisms are the real cause of spoilage, majority of which are destroyed by heat treatment of foods at a high temperature.

However canning of foods in tin containers had started during 1810-20 by the efforts of Saddington, Durand and Underwood. In attempts to raise the temperature of water bath as high as 121ºC for pasteurisation or sterilisation of food, Issac Winslow in 1861 used calcium chloride as solute (technique of raising boiling point by adding solute to solvent or making solution) and A L Shriver invented pressure cooker or retort (technique of raising boiling point by increasing pressure).

Nevertheless, role of sugar and salt in preservation of food has been well known and applied. So sugar solutions (or syrups) and salt solutions (or brines) were used to preserve foods and beverages in containers in canning processes. Later on hermetic sealing facilitated tin packaging of foods.

In the 20th century, the processing time in food packaging processes was considerably reduced with the development of sterilisers or pasteurisers. In mid- 20th century in Australia, the spin pasteuriser was developed in attempts to preserve fruit pulp (or any pulpy, viscous food items) due to which high temperature short time (HTST) technique of packaging was facilitated. Further in attempts to save flavour of fruit slices rock-and-roll type of pasteurisation method was developed. Thin metal sheets and metal coated PVC, as packaging material, facilitated much more the food packaging process due to which aseptic retort packaging techniques to preserve high water activity foods, like prepared ready-to-eat vegetables, were developed.

The concept of active packaging, that means incorporating enzymes with container’s wall for shelf life extension or quality improvement, was introduced by Josef Hotchkiss, an American food scientist, in late 20th and early 21st century.

Also with technical developments in the field of nanotechnology, incorporation of food preserving metal (silver) and clay nanoparticles with container wall became possible. However side-effects of nanoparticles in human body have been observed, so nanotechnology in food preservation is not frequently advised by food authorities. The theory of pasteurisation (high temperature treatment) to preserve food articles was challenged by a group of American scientists in 21st century on account of killing both the good as well as the bad bacteria present in the foods whether milk or meats, fish or fruits, and vegetables. Therefore HPST (high pressure short time) techniques instead of HTST were developed and the process is called HPP (high pressure processing). However to install HPP plant is a costly affair, but worldwide contract manufacturing of HPP packaged foods and beverages is quite possible.

Contribution of Josef H Hotchkiss
Forum, a food tech cyber magazine, calls Prof. (Dr) Josef H Hotchkiss the Guru of Active Packaging. Prof. Hotchkiss is director of Centre for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability at Michigan State University. He has worked as director of graduate studies in the field of food science and technology at Cornell University.

According to an interview of Food Tech Source with him, Hotchkiss’ research efforts focus on introduction of biotechnology to food packaging in order to improve the quality, taste and/or safety of the product within. Among the most recent successes of Hotchkiss’ research team, the development of a juice container that removes the bitterness from grapefruit juice (while the product is en-route to the grocer’s shelf) is counted at top. He defines food packaging as a system of separating a food product from its environment to ensure freshness and quality. The message of Dr Hotchkiss is as follows:

“There have been a tremendous number of technological advancements in food packaging over the last 15 years. For the most part they’ve concerned the development of better or more suitable barriers — barrier means a system of separating a food product from its environment to ensure freshness and quality. These innovations have allowed us to have all kinds of new products, such as single-strength, high-quality refrigerated orange juice — which would not have been possible without some real breakthroughs in packaging. It looks like a milk carton, but it’s actually very hightech. Nonetheless, these packaging innovations have all been passive in that they were simply an improvement of the barrier concept. Active packaging, on the other hand, focusses on the development of materials which in some way interact with the product to improve its quality, safety, shelf life and usability.”

“It’s recently gained any popularity. So, it’s really quite a new area and not on the dinner table or in the grocery stores yet, except in some limited ways. But we believe it is the future of packaging. We’re always trying to push the envelope. Right now we are concentrating on what we call bio-active packaging, in which we are combining advances in biotechnology with advances in material science, to bring some potentially innovative ideas to the packaging realm.”

“Adding enzymes to the interior packaging is a great example of that. Enzymes are very useful in processing foods, and in many cases they can improve the product. Our initial demonstration of this was to put an enzyme in a film material used in packaging in order to reduce the bitterness in citrus juice.”

“How could we demonstrate that active packaging could improve the quality of a product during storage? We knew that citrus products generally have a problem with bitterness. So, we got the idea of introducing an enzyme that degrades the bitter compounds in grapefruit juice onto a film which was used to line the inside of the juice carton. To reduce bitterness, we introduced naringinase, which is an enzyme-derived fungus.”

“It turns out that the bitterness in grapefruits is due primarily to a common plant compound that has sugar molecules attached to it. Naringinase clips off those sugar molecules, effectively making the juice taste sweeter.”

“The main problem faced was getting sufficient activity at refrigeration temperatures, which juices are commonly held at. It was needed to increase activity per unit area of film in order to get sufficient interaction between the enzyme and the juice.”

“We focussed on immobilisation—tried a number of different supporting films that immobilised and held the enzyme, plus were economically viable and were approved for food contact. It was pretty much just trial and error. We were ultimately successful to the extent of demonstrating that you can incorporate an active enzyme into a film, and when that film contacts the product—even at refrigeration temperatures—it can improve the product vis-a-vis its taste, over what would be considered a normal shelf life for that product.”

“It’s a function of area, of loading of enzyme into the film. Of course, temperature plays a role, as does the nature and the pH of the product. So, one has got to look at each case. For example, if one wanted to remove lactose from milk, for people who are lactose intolerant, without adding the enzyme directly to the milk, one could incorporate lactase into the wall of the container and package the milk. If one had sufficient activity one could reduce the lactose concentration of the milk during shipment.”

“Otherwise for it to work, one has to add lactase directly to the milk. It’s always a problem adding something directly to foods because then people consume it. Or, instead, one could use an immobilised enzyme reactor, but those systems have not been particularly successful because they have problems with fouling and clogging up, and with bacterial growth, and relatively frequent regeneration times. So, active packaging might prove a beneficial alternative.”

“One could talk about controlled cholesterol reduction or adding other types of flavour-enhancing enzymes… one can think of lots of potentially good uses for enzymes in food. And with active packaging there’s no need to add the enzymes directly.”

“Furthermore there are enzymes that metabolise cholesterol, so, at least in theory it’s possible to reduce the cholesterol content of a food item. I do not know if anyone’s done it, but you could put a cholesterol-consuming enzyme in packaging material that, in theory anyway, would reduce the cholesterol of a product like milk.”

“The beauty of enzymes is that they are very, very specific in their activity. Typically they do not affect other components. Cost is a funny thing when talking about enzymes and other products of biotechnology. Proctor and Gamble has put an enzyme system into a laundry detergent which breaks down cellulose so that it makes your clothes appear brighter because it takes away the fuzz that develops on cotton-based fabrics. If you can put that much cellulase in detergent and still sell it at a reasonable cost, through biotechnology it seems to me you can do almost anything.”

Nanotech innovation in packaging: Hotchkiss’ views
Hotchkiss told Tom Philpott of in June 2014 that while nano-materials were quite attractive to the food industry as a way to cheaply prolong the shelf life of packaged foods, they currently were not widely used because no one knows for sure what kind of risks from ingesting exquisitely tiny amounts of nano-materials may or not represent. As a result, the food industry is waiting on the sidelines until more safety research emerges.

FSSA 2006 should critically analyse innovative packaging
In India too, active and nanotechnological packaging systems might be in use, therefore, with a viewpoint of public health the FSS Act should critically analyse and come up with laws regarding packaging materials and technology.

(The author is Bikaner-based food technologist)

FSSAI Abolishes Affidavit and Promotes Self Certification for Food Product Approval

FSSAI Abolishes Affidavit and Promotes Self Certification for Food Product Approval

One of the criteria for applying for Product Approval was that Food Business Operators had to submit a notarized ‘Affidavit’ on non-judicial stamp paper as part of the documentary process that supported their application for Product Approval.

However, to make the application process for product approval easy and convenient FSSAI has now decided to substitute the ‘Affidavit’ with an‘Undertaking by way of Self Declaration’. FSSAI has also taken this step because there is a Government of India order O.M. No. Z.17015/1/ 2014-CDN­ I dated 17th October, 2014 with regard to abolition of affidavits. Since the government is discouraging the use of affidavits and encouraging self declaration undertakings FSSAI following on the governments order has thought it fit to promote self declaration undertaking too. Accordingly FSSAI has passed an Order on 31st December 2014, which states that Food Business Operators are now required to give an ‘Undertaking by way of Self Declaration’ on plain paper as a supporting document for Product Approval.

FSSAI has further said that since an ‘Affidavit’ is no longer mandatory FBOs can just give an ‘Undertaking’ according to the format FSSAI has published for this purpose. The ‘Undertaking’ will be required to be submitted from now onwards along with the application for Product Approval.

FBOs who wish to apply for Product Approval have been requested to enclose an ‘Undertaking.’ This ‘Undertaking’ will be a self declaration and will replace the earlier notarized ‘Affidavit.’ The Order is to be followed with immediate effect and the FSSAI Product Approval Division will not be accepting applications that have a notarized ‘Affidavit’ after 1st March 2015. It is important that FBOs have a copy of the format as all Product Approval ‘Undertakings’ have to be made according to the format that FSSAI has outlined.

About Food Product Approval

Product Approval is a process by which a product gets approved by the FSSAI in which the ingredient/ingredients or additive/ additives are not as per Food Safety Act, Rules & Regulations. All food products, food ingredients and additives for which there are no standards notified by FSSAI require product approval. There are many documents that are required by FSSAI from the FBOs when they apply for product approval which FSSAI then scrutinises before giving PA/NOC. Only after the PA/NOC has been granted can FBO use the ingredients or additives in their food products for further sale in India. Similarly for an importer, a person/company is only allowed to sale/distribute a non-standardized food product, once approved by the food authority.