Alleviate Malnourishment: One Food Technologist At A Time

        Alleviate Malnourishment: One Food Technologist At A Time

biotech

From food gathering to fine dining, man has progressed by leaps and bounds. Yet there remains a massive proportion of the global population suffering from malnourishment. Malnourishment can manifest itself in the form of undernourishment in the developing world to obesity in the developed world. Food security has rather become a passé and nutrition security has been recognized as the need of the hour. This has resulted in an exponential increase in research & industrial endeavors to alleviate all forms of malnourishment. Food industries and governments world over have invested huge amounts of capital to streamline various food production processes. As a result Food science and technology has become a highly sort after STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Management) field with several courses being tailor made by universities according to the industrial requirements.

Food production and processing is a complicated process requiring interdisciplinary expertise. Any food product goes through several checkpoints on its path from farm to fork. At the farm level, the choice is between judicious usage of chemical pesticides and fertilizers to absolute abstinence in the form of organic produce. Trainings for farmers, novel machinery for the farms, less harmful chemicals and restricted doses; aid in improving the overall production of food crops. Post harvest losses are known to result in huge economic losses to the farmers. Hence food technologists working on packaging and controlled/modified environment help in preventing such frivolous damages. Food processing of the natural produce for increased shelf life, nutritional fortification, enhanced taste/sensory perception etc. is being practiced in the name of food technology. Further, food safety is a critical area in food science that assures the consumers of how safe their purchase is. Novel techniques such as plasma processing, high pressure processing etc are hot targets for researchers world over. The related progress made, reduces untoward incidences caused by unsafe food consumption such as mad cow disease, botulism, salmonella and E. coli outbreaks etc. Post production, food packaging is used for preventing spoilage, detailed ingredient labeling and attractive aesthetics thereby delivering the final food product to the retail markets. With the advent of pioneering fields of nutrigenomics and nutraceuticals, the fine divide between nutrition and medicine has been blurred. Novel targeted food products are being manufactured with healthy claims and personalized recommended daily allowances. The day is not far, when our daily nutritional requirements will be met through a personalized pill, based on our individual genomic makeup. Food science and nutrition will surpass all expectations and shall become the magic potion for health and well-being.

A vital issue in today’s food market is pertaining consumption of genetically modified food. Despite heated debates on safety of GM crops and criticism of the related research, one needs to realize that it is the need of the hour and indeed the only possible solution to complications such as insecticide and pesticide resistance. Awareness of the ‘need for GM crops’ along with long-term research on their health and environmental impact need to go hand in hand.

Though food industries follow HACCP and Good Manufacturing Practices, there are food safety breaches. To regulate the manufacturing process, regulatory bodies such as FDA, FSSAI and FPO monitor every step and often recall batches and lots of products thought to be unsatisfactory in any way.

As clearly seen from the above discussion, the food manufacturing & processing is multifaceted and requires experts at every level, right from training of farmers to food processing and regulating the entire course. Thus, the field generates myriad of professional opportunities and represents a paradise for motivated job seekers. One can only hope that, one day the right minds will come together and help feed the malnourished millions.

-Mr. Ashish Dababe and Dr. Azza Naik.
(The authors are teaching faculties associated with the D.Y Patil University, Navi Mumbai- School of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics)