Tuesday, October 27, 2009


World over value addition "mantra" is chanted monotonously as if it is the only route for salvation. In India, this has become the fashionable thing to say in all seminars, conferences and conventions connected with food processing. Unfortunately no one seems to be clear what they mean by value addition to raw food materials produced in the country side. Even Planning Commission has given value addition a high priority because such activities promote employment besides boosting the GDP of the country. In this juggernaut, the interest of the consumer is largely ignored. With global examples of developed countries where value addition figures are as high as 80%, we do not seem to understand that in spite of such high value addition many of these countries are beset with mortal diseases like CVD, diabetes, blood pressure, cancers of various types and others, most of them attributed to products emanating from the food processing factories there.

This is not to indict the food industry as a whole for their omissions and commissions but to take a balanced view about its role in economic as well as social development in the country. To be fair to the food sector, it must be complimented for saving billions of dollars worth of foods from the ravages of infection, infestation and other damaging vectors. The greatest role food industry plays is in the primary sector involving fresh produce preservation, modern warehousing infrastructure, cold stores and transportation and manufacture of nutritionally balanced processed foods. Where it is going wrong is producing high calorie, high fat, high sodium foods catering to the whimsical sensory desires of the consumers, most of whom have no idea what bad and unbalanced food can do to their health in the long run. It is a pity that the situation has become so alarming, harsh proposals like imposing heavy taxes on such foods and a time may come when the labels may have to carry warning symbols, like on cigarette packets, that "eating foods can be dangerous to health"!

If 100% of the food material produced can be processed into convenient products with long life and high sensory quality, the industrial development can become phenomenal, employment generated will be astronomical and revenue through taxes to the government may be very high. But can man survive on a diet solely based on processed foods? In spite of the modern enrichment technology, a processed food can never be same as a fresh food, though such statement may be heretic for many. Variety is the spice of life and humans crave for variety in every thing they yearn for. Food is no exception. The nutrients in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh milk and fresh animal products are present in harmony with each other and their efficiency in terms of utilization by the body cannot be matched by any recipe concocted by man to mimic nature.

A consumer will be much better off if he can moderate consumption of processed foods (with high value addition) with natural, fresh and whole foods finding place in the regular diet at least to the extent of 50% of the quantity consumed. Probably man may have to go back to the old family values and re-invent ways and means to restore the place of kitchen in providing healthy and economic foods and family bonding through exciting recipes, new taste sensations and happy environment. Food industry should not grudge such an attitudinal change amongst the consumers. It has a crucial role in delivering the food material to him in prime condition and in as natural a condition as possible.


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