Tuesday, June 8, 2010


What one eats to day has no resemblance to what people from two generations ago ate and one of the most critical causative factors is the milling technology, an ubiquitous unit operation that has changed the whole world. In chemical engineering parlance, milling simply refers to a unit operation deployed for achieving size reduction but in food processing it has some what different connotation. The terminology like grinding, crushing or milling is used commonly to refer to processing of raw foods into edible ones, though many people have little idea about the subtle difference.

Grinding is a word having 10 different meanings as far as an English speaking person is concerned and these include crushing some thing to small pieces or powder, oppressing or treating extremely harsh, polishing of a surface, making sound by friction, coming to halt with a noise etc. As far as food processing is concerned it is common expression that denotes size reduction to bring a coarse food material, especially dry ones, into powder or flour with varying particle size. Grinders fitted with appropriate sieves can deliver flours with different particle size. In contrast crushing is a general terminology that is used widely for pressing, squeezing hard, to cause creases in the dress materials, to describe defeat and also to convey a sense of overwhelming, intending to subdue, infatuation and making beverages from fruits prepared by pulping.

The word "Milling" originated from the "Mill" that means a building fitted with machinery for grinding grain into flour or a machine that grinds a substance into powder. In course of time it became a common terminology to denote many operations in the organized sector for converting raw products into finish products. Paper mills, cotton mills, textile mills, steel mill etc have very little in common with a flour mill where flour is the end product. In food processing area milling is most commonly referred to a series of operations under dry or wet conditions, the ultimate aim being either dehusking, debranning, splitting or grinding into flour. Wet milling is the most common kitchen operation for preparing batter that is used to make hundreds of traditional preparations. No kitchen is considered complete unless a "mixie" is provided. Industrial milling like cocoa mass preparation, homogenization, ultra grinding, etc is part and parcel of food industry.

What influence milling has had on the health of modern consumers? Can this unit operation be blamed as the sole reason for drastic changes in the eating habits which have taken place during the last hundred years? To some extent, naturalist would say so. Milling is responsible for reducing the dietary fiber in almost all foods consumed to day. Milling removes bran and germs from wheat, bran from dehusked rice and husk from legumes while splitting and almost all processed foods to day are based on these three food grains. During milling and refining significant loss takes place vis-à-vitamins, minerals and many phytonutrients. By making super fine flours the natural role played by the jaws and the dental structure in masticating foods is by passed. Fine particle foods are digested faster creating sudden sugar peaks in the blood not considered desirable. Same applies to fruits also as eating a whole fruit has superior benefits compared to peeled, pulped, refined juices, consumed so commonly to day. The foundation of many of the modern foods is the finely ground flour from corn and other food grains and that many of these foods are responsible for to day's "bloated" society is an irrefutable fact.

Convenience taking precedence over nutrition, modern families may have no choice but to depend on processed foods which saves consider time and efforts leaving them free to do many other pressing daily chores. While search for exciting new foods with different texture, taste and flavor is bound to be part of human life, discretion in deploying milling technology more appropriately can make a difference between good and indifferent quality of life. Milling technology and machinery available to day are so versatile that sufficient flexibility is built into these gadgets to get a products of desired nutritional quality.


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