In a country where native foods hardly command any attention from food scientists, the news report appearing in the print media regarding the work of scientists in National Dairy Research Institute, Regional Center(NDRI) at Bangalore on extending the shelf-life of some milk based products popular in Orissa deserves kudos. The relentless neglect of traditional foods and traditional food technology has created a void as far as scientific information and data on these foods are concerned. Though as a country India is free from foreign rule and domination, the food research still has colonial hang over with the western influence predominating the minds of food scientists in their endeavor. Except for occasional ritualistic seminars, nothing worth while has been accomplished in the area of traditional foods within the country. It is a tragedy that modern research techniques and tools available are not applied to unravel the mystery that still defy attempts by food engineers to come up with equipment for mass production.
The products referred here are Chhana Podo and Chhana Jhili, specialty sweet delicacies from Orissa, considered unique in taste and texture. The work of the scientists at NDRI might not be earth-shaking but significant in many ways. It is a good thing that there are still scientists who consider research in traditional foods interesting. The products are not of national importance compared to Bengali sweets but still there is an interest. The modified product developed with extended shelf life is available to the consumers in at least Bangalore readily for consumption in NDRI Parlor, reflecting the confidence of the scientists on their work unlike other R & D agencies who either go for patenting or academic publications with no impact on the industry. Even though the results are not dramatic since the shelf life could be extended only by a few days, it can lead to further developments eventually resulting in a product with long life under ambient conditions. According to the claims by NDRI scientists Chhana Podi can now be kept at ambient conditions for a week as against 2-3 days at present, the shelf life reaching more than a month under refrigeration. This will give adequate elbow room to the industry to expand the marketing reach further.
The parlor concept at NDRI institutions is a remarkable innovation which must be adopted by others if they are really interested in technology transfer to the industry. Seeing is believing and the parlors do give the entrepreneurs and consumers a chance to see what is new and whether it is workable or not. This is in contrast to the approach by others to refer the entrepreneurs to their 'Show Case' or libraries for any information in the form of publications and patents. One of the major reasons for the failure of most technology is the difficulty in accessing to the know how and do-how and lack of transparency in dialogs with entrepreneurs. Technology transfer is an engaged process where the industry do need escort services, especially in new technological areas which is not forthcoming from most of the R & D agencies. If this is realized by those at the helm of affairs, there is a further need to extend the concept to setting up a dedicated general processing facility at each R & D center to demonstrate the actual process for any products developed to interested entrepreneurs to have the 'convincing' impact.
NDRI must broaden their foray further into traditional foods, even those containing no milk and apply their experience for the benefit of food industry at large. Can we expect more such good news from them? Consumer can only hope and leave the rest to the scientists.