Thursday, June 23, 2011


Is there a single most important factor that is causing price instability for food grains experienced globally since the year 2007? The straight answer is the distorted demand-supply situation with supply lagging behind due to many reasons. Agricultural scientists have done a yeoman service in the past in developing better seed materials and improved cultivation practices which benefited millions of farmers all over the world. Now that there are uncertainties regarding the ability of mankind to double the food production before the end of this century to feed a population of about 10 billion, what lies ahead for humanity in a world with grossly inadequate food supply?

Man's thoughtless past practices have depleted the fossil fuel source, reduced water availability due to overuse, fouled the environment due to heat generating CO2, affected adversely the health of millions because of reckless use of pesticides and destroyed soil health by indiscriminate application of chemical fertilizers. There is no unanimity regarding the exact cause for near stagnation in food production, post-green revolution period but majority agree that abrupt weather changes, unusually high temperature conditions, frequent droughts and flooding have all contributed to this unhappy situation.

Wheat, Rice and Corn provide major calories for human beings and depending on the region one or the other predominates. While rice eating is predominant in Asia, wheat and corn consumption is high in western countries. During the last decade world stock of these food grains has come down to alarming levels due to production-consumption mismatch. Green revolution during nineteen seventies raised dreams of unlimited production of food through technological prowess and it is only now the world is realizing that under the existing conditions and technological base it will never be possible to meet the increasing demand for food through quantum jump in production. The result was dramatic rise in prices of almost all commodities, in some cases by more than 100%, making many countries vulnerable to food riots like the ones that rocked 25 countries a few years ago. Though genetic engineering is being touted as a tool to augment food production, this has not yet been corroborated by any achievements at the ground level.

Many of the failed harvests of the past decade were a consequence of weather disasters, like floods in the United States, drought in Australia and blistering heat waves in Europe and Russia. Scientists believe some, though not all, of those events were caused or worsened by human-induced global warming. Temperatures are rising rapidly during the growing season in some of the most important agricultural countries, and probably this had significantly reduced the potential yields, which in turn, impacted the price situation. Most recent scientific research suggests that a previously discounted factor, climate change is also contributing to the destabilization of the food system, as most crops cannot withstand higher temperature conditions.

There are optimists among the eternal pessimists who feel that all is not lost and there is still time to plan and act to overcome the bleak future painted by many fatalists. Brilliant agricultural scientists, especially breeders have been able to develop varieties of many food crops that can resist drought and flooding but in the absence of adequate financial support they are not able to increase the pace of research to the desired level. Climatologists who never bothered to understand the linkage between food production and the climate change, have been lulled into the belief that increased CO2 level in the atmosphere can only increase the yield but they have been proved wrong by the recent findings that CO2 does not help to any great extent under actual field conditions. Similarly the effect of global warming has never been factored in any planning vis-a-vis food production. If the recent findings of agricultural scientists are taken into reckoning, the food crisis can be tackled effectively if funding for their developmental work is in increased dramatically in the coming years.


Monday, June 20, 2011


The on-going food scare in Taiwan due to foods and beverages contaminated with a plasticizer known as Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) has once again raises alarm regarding the use of these chemicals for their unique functional properties. There are about 25 different phthalates to which modern man is exposed and some of them like DEHP.DINP, DNOP, DIDP,DBP and BBP are considered conspicuous by their presence in thousands of products with which humans come into contact. In fact about 10-40% of all plastics are made of one or the other phthalate and since to day's Society cannot live without plastics, exposure to phthalates is considered unavoidable.

Phthalates in plastics like Poly Vinyl Chloride ( PVC) provide clarity, increased flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. DEHP, the most commonly used plasticizer, has become ubiquitous because of its low cost and easy availability. Considering that exposure to phthalates from many products used by humans, many countries are phasing out their use with plans to eliminate them eventually. Phthalates mimic human hormones and are considered endocrine disruptor if ingested at high levels, causing many diseases including chronic obesity, sexual abnormality, cancer, cardiovascular damage etc.

Though phthalates, being an excellent plasticizer, are not used by the food industry, their presence in unusual concentrations has been reported in some foods like milk and cheese and also water. DEHP with low vapor pressure is easily volatilized during the high temperature manufacturing process and these vapors are absorbed by the water and foods with high fat content. There are reports that milk and cheese are highly vulnerable to contamination by phthalates from the atmosphere and water. It is estimated that about 3.63 billion kg of DEHP are produced globally, used extensively by the plastic industry in making various products of day to day use and the danger posed by this chemical can be gauged by the cumulative exposure of human beings every day to theses products.

The Taiwan incidence has been traced to the use of DEHP by an ingredient manufacturer to make flavor concentrates for beverages as DEHP is an excellent emulsifier and provides cloudy appearance to beverages without separation or sedimentation. As a general rule clouding agents are not supposed to contain any of the phthalates including DEHP but the Taiwan party must have used it because it is one of the cheapest emulsifiers available in the market. It is unbelievable that the population in the US , the most industrialized nation in the world have high levels of phthalates in their blood, urine, saliva and exhaled air and what effects these chemicals have had on their health is any body's guess! In the US phtalates up to a level of 6 ppb is permitted in water though a total ban of these chemical is on the anvil in many countries including the US, Canada and European Union due to serious health concerns.

The entire food industry in Taiwan is likely to be engulfed in a worsening carcinogenic-additive crisis as a growing number of products have been found to contain DEHP which has set off panic among the consumers and unease in government circles. The food industry in that country is in shambles, affecting the reputation of many established players for no fault of theirs. Millions of food products have been recalled and the hemorrhaging is still continuing. Many countries have slapped a ban on Taiwanese made food products affecting the export economy very badly. Probably it may take many years for Taiwanese Food Industry to reclaim the reputation lost because of the DEHP tainting incidence. If this incidence can serve as a wake up call for many countries, regarding the importance of food safety, which must be enforced with an iron hand, Taiwanese pain would have served a purpose!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


A raging controversy is going on at Delhi regarding the fate of the Public Distribution System (PDS) which was designed and given shape over years of efforts to protect the poor and the impoverished from the scourge of hunger. Though in paper the PDS is one of the marvels of Indian ingenuity, the ground reality tells a different story. With a network of more than 400000 retail outlets popularly known as ration shops, PDS is well placed to deliver food grains to targeted population but is plagued by pilferage to the extent of 60% by grain mafias working with impunity and invariably under the tutelage of corrupt politicians, depriving many of those eligible to receive the state largess. Presently each family belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL) as defined by the government norms based on economic status is supposed to receive 35 kg of food grains besides sugar and kerosene at subsidized rate. If the system works efficiently and honestly poverty would never be an issue in the country.

There was a time in India's past when every family had a Ration Card (RC) for getting rice, wheat, sugar and kerosene at subsidized rates and RC doubled as an important document for establishing the identity of a family with address. Due to exclusion of middle class families and upper income groups from the purview of PDS the relevance of RC was lost in many states and "targeted delivery" became the norms under which families were divided into below and above poverty line categories. This complicated arrangement has created so much confusion that there are millions of bogus RCs floating in the country and added to this lack of efficient monitoring practices made it a free for all situation with pilferage becoming a norm rather than an exception. While every body including the Planning Commission recognizes this bitter truth, precious little is done to stem this rot and grain looting goes on merrily!

The National Advisory Council ( NAC) which is a parallel center of power at Delhi wanted GOI to radically change the PDS program with a heavy political agenda and according the recent Food Security Bill being drafted by this body, each person will have the entitlement in stead of treating family as a unit and population will be divided into priority and general category beneficiaries. 46% of the rural population and 26% of the urban population will come under priority category while 29% in rural households and 22% in urban households form the general category beneficiaries. While priority beneficiary is entitled to get 7 kg of food grains per month at subsidized price, general category beneficiary will get 3 kg of food grains. The draft bill is vague with respect to many details and it is unlikely to become a law immediately. Probably it is being reserved for the 2014 general election to capture the "aam aadmi" votes!

Interestingly the powerful World Bank (WB) which has always meddled with the economies of many developing countries as a quid pro for disbursing soft loans, has a different agenda on food grain transfer system presently in vogue in India. According to their recent report, India has to wind up its PDS and in stead put in place a "cash transfer" program that will give Rs 1100 for each BPL family in lieu of supply of subsidized food grains. The assumption is that this money will be used by the household to buy its food grain requirement from open market. Though the concept is good on paper, it is doubtful whether this system will work in a country ridden by one financial scam after another and the credibility of the government is at its lowest ebb. If food grains mafia has taken control of the PDS, the cash transfer regime can be expected to create economic mafia with expertise to usurp the "food grants" from the poor beneficiaries through many ingenious ways. Ultimately it is the ability to manage that counts and India has amply demonstrated that it has a long way to go to muster even a "pass" in this area, let alone "distinction"!

The logic in the WB argument is that PDS incurs Rs 45,000 crore every year to supply BPL families wheat, rice, kerosene and sugar of which 60 per cent of grain is looted by the food mafia is understandable. But its remedy in the form of "cash for food grain" alternative is fraught with many implications not understood by this multilateral financial institution. For instance WB is not clear as to how this financial largess will be monitored, or whether the sum suggested is adequate enough to feed a family of at least four members. Is it not interesting that while the NAC is pressurizing GOI for increasing allocation of food grains to the poor under the proposed Food Security Act, the Government seems to be actively considering the WB report. What will be the fate of the existing ration shops? What about the grain procurement and storage functions being carried out by the Food Corporation of India? How will the country manage to insure food security through food reserves as per international norms? If reports are to be believed "cash for grains" program is being tried in Delhi on a pilot basis and eventually GOI may allow options to the states to choose between "grain transfer" and "cash transfer" systems depending on their ability to manage!


Friday, June 10, 2011


Organic foods command considerable attraction from a sizable consumer segment because of the relative safety these foods offer due to non-use of chemicals during production both as fertilizer as well as pesticides. That their share world-wise has soared to 2% from an insignificant start a decade ago speaks volume about the faith consumers have on them and this volume is likely to go up significantly with safety questions repeatedly being raised on traditionally grown crops. This is in spite of the premium price consumers will have to pay for buying organic food versions from the market. Though the present land coverage under organic farming is only about 37 million hectares, which is less than 1% of the cultivated agricultural land globally, it has the potential on a long term to replace the traditional practices.

If local food movement is catching up in the West, this is also due to precisely the same reason though environmental advantage is also claimed while promoting locally grown foods. Farmers market, another phenomenon, taken roots in the West, is also borne out of the demand for fresh foods as safe as possible from the local farmers without the intervention of retail marketing operators. Urban gardens coming up in many urban areas in the US and Canada are a result of another effort by the city consumers to ensure high quality fresh produce for themselves. In spite of all these innovative efforts, food poisoning continues to haunt some of the most affluent countries as illustrated by the recent E.coli contamination episode in the EU which has already claimed two dozen lives and affected thousands of people. Fortunately the source of contamination, contrary to earlier reports of Spanish cucumbers, has been traced to sprouts from Germany.

Organic food production is an area not well understood by many people and farmers willing to switch over from their traditional cultivation with mono culture have no clue as to the wherewithal of the needed technology. Besides the cost involved is significantly higher when organic cultivation is taken up though market gives a higher returns to these "adventurous" and progressive farmers. There are, however some NGOs working in some areas offering training to farmers in switching over to organic crops, though they are not widespread. From the soil health point of view, organic farming with emphasis on multi culture cultivation, does not destroy the health of the soil draining all its nutritive contents. It has to be remembered that the single most mistake committed during the Green Revolution was its emphasis on mono culture and chemical and water intensive operations affecting the health of top soil in many areas. No tilling technology adopted by many farmers can only be a temporary measure because applying organic manure can only maintain top soil.

The controversy regarding the claim by a few organic food enthusiasts that it is more healthy from nutritional angle does not merit any consideration as the same has been proved to be not correct. Some enthusiasts even suggest that organic food is tastier than conventionally produced counterparts though scientific evidence is yet to confirm this claim. Similarly there is also raging controversy regarding productivity, the major criticism being that yield per acre is less in case of organic farming, raising some doubts regarding its usefulness to help increase food production but this has not been consistently demonstrated. On the contrary there are several findings asserting that organic farms withstand drought more effectively than the traditional agriculture. If organic farming as per the definition of the International Federation of Agriculture Movement (IFOAM), the umbrella body guiding the new developments in this field, is followed major benefits would be sustaining the health of the soil, the ecosystem and human health. Advocates of GM technology feel that integrating organic farming with transgenic crops can enable the former to achieve quantum jump in the productivity. But IFOAM norms do not allow GM crops to be called organic.

According to APEDA, the agency that oversees agricultural products exports from India, duly certified organic farming accounts only for about 1 per cent of overall agriculture production in the country as organic farming is very small in size, compared to 2 per cent at the global level. It is known that over the years, application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has depleted soil, and inefficient irrigation has caused water tables to plunge in many parts of India. Crop yields are falling continuously even as India's food demand has significantly increased necessitating drastic action to buck this trend. According to some experts Agro-ecology or organic farming deserves to be considered for country wide use as it can deliver advantages that are complementary to better known conventional approaches such as breeding high-yielding varieties.

In India, agriculture has always been an important area but methods and practices remain largely outdated and manual. More than half of the country's population of 1.2 billion relies on agriculture for a living. The vast majority of farms in India are small, less than three acres in size and farmers are heavily burdened by the cost of seeds, fertilizer and pesticides, in spite of extensive government subsidies. For many small farmers, organic farming makes better sense and the existing limited training infrastructure largely in the NGO sector, is doing yeoman service. What needs to be done is to expand such facilities manifold besides putting in place attractive financial incentives to farmers for taking up organic farming. There is no doubt that Green Revolution, though was able to raise food production, did cause extensive damage to the health of the soil and organic farming seems to be the only way to restore the soil health that can again raise productivity from agricultural lands in the country.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Food additives are supposed to be added as a technical necessity and they are not intended to boost the profitability of the processor or masking the inherently lower quality of a product. The recent controversy in China regarding the practice in that country of using additives to natural rice will help to focus on the need for a re-look at thousands of food additives which have become common place as far as the food industry is concerned. Interestingly the food safety authorities are taking the stand that these additives are safe without deeply examining the technical need for use of additives in rice which has never been heard of before.

The three additives that are used in China to coat rice include Sodium Diacetate, Chitosan and starch phosphates. These are supposed to protect the rice from pests and insects which can destroy the grains when infested. Sodium Diacetate, a mixture of Sodium acetate and acetic acid is permitted in many processed food products for controlling the acidity and enhance flavor. But Chitosan, a polyglucosamine product derived from the industrial waste from processing of Crustaceans like Shrimp has many functional properties though in rice they are reported to be used as a protectant. Its value as a biopesticide in agriculture and horticulture is well known and generally seeds are treated with Chitosan to improve the germination efficiency. Starch Phosphate, a gummy material is a thickener and probably it functions by masking the natural aroma of rice and deceive the damage causing vectors. Being resistant to heat and acids, Starch Phosphates might be protecting the rice becoming mushy during cooking. Researchers have used carbohydrate polymers like Carboxy Methyl Cellulose as a carrier for coating rice with nutrients and such coated rice resist leaching of nutrients during cooking with excess water and draining. However it is inconceivable that a consumer can knowingly accept a rice with such additives incorporated which will definitely tell on the organoleptic quality of the cooked rice, especially in a country like India.

According to the global standards for using additives, it can be used only when such practice is technically indispensable. If rice is rot-resistant to pests without additives, where is the need for adding it? Many experts familiar with rice industry frown upon using any additive in natural rice and there are no reports elsewhere in the world about such practices. It is generally recognized that protecting rice from pests can be achieved several ways and technologies available include chemical fumigation, nitrogen packing and vacuum packing. They are easy, safe and inexpensive for retaining the freshness of rice. There are also natural protectants like Neem which are used widely in rural areas where excess grains are preserved for future use. .

It is understandable for makers of rice based products like noodles to use additives so that the product retains its cooking quality better. However a natural rice grain does not need any additives to maintain its typical characteristics. Besides there are hundreds of varieties of rice with different quality characteristics and if the industry is allowed to use additives, there can be tendency to process inferior quality rice for positioning as premium quality product to deceive the consumer. Imagine some unscrupulous processors using additives like Chitosan or Starch Phosphate for carrying flavors resembling that of Basmati rice using low priced varieties and palming it of as a genuine product! With controversies raging amongst experts and policy makers regarding the safety of hundreds of chemical additives already permitted, world can do without another one by allowing additives to natural rice!.


Sunday, June 5, 2011


In the wake of the deadly deadly Escherichia coli ( E.Coli) outbreak that's swept Europe in recent days, a logical question that worries food safety experts is whether such episodes can happen elsewhere in the world. The issue is too complex to get a ready answer since E.coli, considered for long as an innocuous bug has metamorphosed into a monster group of microorganisms capable of causing death amongst humans. It was known for quite some time that a virulent strain of E.coli can cause food poisoning and it was identified as E.coli 0157:H7 which can damage the kidney if infected, though early treatment can abate the symptoms. Almost a decade of tireless work by microbiologists resulted in evolving reliable techniques to identify and assay them, giving considerable confidence to safety monitoring agencies to nip such poisoning with reasonable degree of accuracy. In some countries mandatory testing of foods for 0157:H7 is in place to prevent large scale food poisoning. In spite of all these efforts, more than 60000 people per year are affected by food poisoning episodes in the US alone due to infection from this bacteria.

There are also several other virulent strains isolated from soil but very little is known about most of these dangerous versions and practically no reliable assay method has been evolved that can be applied in the field. Thus there are gaps in the food safety systems of most of the countries as it is not feasible to test for new illnesses emerging caused by various strains of pathogenic E.coli. It is true that most safety agencies are focusing on a single strain, 0157:H7 considered most dangerous, ignoring other strains which also caused occasional food poisoning episodes to a limited extent. Now that the culprit in the EU food contamination case has been tentatively identified as E.coli 0104:H4, world has to sit and take note of the potential for damage by this strain. Probably the EU incidence may be a wake-up call for agencies like WHO to channel more resources to tackle this menace.

Why should this bacteria infect such products like tomato, cucumber, aubergine or lettuce which after all are not energy dense products giving sustenance to them? Could it be that they are just carriers becoming active only when suitable environment is available? How do they survive the rigorous processing steps which include washing and disinfection practiced by the industry most of them following the HACCP practices? Do they possess extra-ordinary capacity to with stand the scientifically sound disinfection processes followed by the industry? How come they possess the ability to resist antibiotics used for treatment of affected consumers? What precaution consumers can take to avoid ingesting such deadly foods? These are all disturbing questions that need to be probed without any delay.

Some of the clues available are helpful in understanding the problem and these must be kept in mind while evolving preventive action to avoid such contamination taking place at the grower's end and at industry level. E.coli is a bacteria associated with feces and they live in the guts of most mammals including human beings. Unless the affected product was exposed to an environment containing these bacteria in adequate numbers, it is unlikely that they would be contaminated. It would be advisable for fresh produce industry to ensure that at least a distance of 5 ft is kept between areas containing E.coli sources and the produce materials. The reported fact that those affected by the food poisoning are not responding to antibiotics Penicillin and Streptomycin points out to the possibility of raw meat as a source of contamination because the meat industry uses antibiotics in heavy doses in the feed tending to cause resistance of many pathogens to these antibiotics.

Now that the large outbreak in EU has been more or less traced to the emerging super-strain O104:H4 which is reported to have sickened at least 1,600 people and killed 18, intensive efforts are on to trace the source of contamination so that such future incidences can be avoided. The sacrifices by those unfortunate people felled by this pathogenic bacteria should not go in vain and the mankind owes to them for preventing such tragedy in future.


Saturday, June 4, 2011


Amongst all the synthetic sweeteners Aspartame has been able to capture substantial market till recently because of its inherent properties to satisfy consumers regarding its efficacy in simulating taste of natural sugar and its relatively low cost. Its major competitor Sucralose, though sweeter by three times, costs 10 times more making the industry opt for the former. However use of Aspartame, permitted in all foods in countries like the US, is self-limiting because it is stable only at a pH of about 4.3 and its major is restricted to soft drinks with pH range between 3 and 5. It is also unstable under alkaline conditions and at high temperatures making it an unsuitable candidate for use by the bakery industry. At a pH of 7 the half life of Aspartame is hardly a few days while at pH 4.3 it can be as high as 300 days.

Though Aspartame was discovered as early as 1965, its widespread use became common from 1996 onwards with the USFDA clearing it for use in all food products. This makes sense because it cannot be used in many products because of pH conditions and temperature of processing. Still it is believed that over 6000 products contain Aspartame singly or in admixture with Saccharine or Acesulfame in about 90 countries in the world. Relatively high ADI of 50 mg per kg body weight for adults make it suitable for many products and generally an average consumer takes less than 10% of the ADI through products containing this synthetic sweetener. As such there ought not to be any safety scare while using Aspartame by the food processing industry.

One of the serious apprehensions while using Aspartame as a sweetener is its break down products that may accumulate in products standing on the retail shelf for long or others which have undergone severe processing conditions. The artifacts in such products include Phenylalanine and Methanol. While Phenylalanine may pose heath risks for consumers with the genetic disorder Phenylketonuria, Methanol is a toxic substance considered highly harmful beyond a certain concentration. Of course suitable label declaration can forewarn consumers suffering from Phenylketonuria regarding the potential harmful effect it can have on them but presence of Methanol evokes fears about its likely impact on health. What is not realized in this debate is that concentration of Methanol that can cause injury has to be much higher than what is generated in products containing Aspartame. Added to this human blood, urine, saliva and exhaled air do contain methanol and many fruits have methanol as a natural constituent.

A recent controversy regarding the safety of consuming a particular diet drink from a beverage major containing Aspartame has brought back the memories of earlier skirmishes between pro and anti Aspartame lobbies during nineteen eighties and nineties. Though it has some political and economic implications, EU is not taking any chance and has undertaken urgent review of the safety of Aspartame in the light of some new studies linking its consumption to premature births and cancer. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA), have categorically ruled out any link between Aspartame and any health disorder.

The focus has been on the likely toxic effect of Methanol, a nerve toxin, generated in the products on human health as formic acid and formaldehyde are formed when Methanol is metabolized in the body and these metabolites are also strong nerve toxins. According to a most recent medical review "weight of the existing scientific evidence indicates that Aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a non-nutritive sweetener". Of course there could be many non-believers in such assertions because of the enormous economic stake the Aspartame manufacturing industry has in safe guarding its interests. One can only hope that the review being undertaken by EU which can be expected to bring out a balanced conclusion, will settle this issue once for all.


Thursday, June 2, 2011


Rice is the most important staple in many Asian countries, though lately its consumption is growing in other parts of the world also. Though rice cultivation is water intensive and it may make some sense to wean away consumers from eating rice, such a strategy is unlikely to succeed because of the difficulty involved in changing traditional food consumption habits. Not that it is impossible as demonstrated in Korea, a predominantly rice consuming countries, where wheat was made popular by the United States and in southern India where population are slowly shifting to wheat from the staple food, rice. Probably such shifts in dietary pattern can take place over a long period of promotion and through adequate incentives.

Asian giants China and India are the two major rice producers accounting for almost about 340 million tons an year. Rice is a nutritional grain though its protein content is not as high as that in wheat. But the way the paddy is processed makes the difference in terms of nutrient content. There are different colored rice varieties with different colors like purple, red and black and added to these recent development of golden rice rich in carotenoids has provided another variant. Black rice is being touted as being rich in antioxidants, comparable to that in blue berries and black berries.

Processing of paddy involves dehusking and debranning to get the white cotyledon that is commonly known as rice and it is this processing step that makes it less nutritious by removing significant part of the nutrients. It is a paradox that almost all nutrients in rice are concentrated in the husk and bran portions of the grain and ironically they are considered inedible, removed during paddy processing. Bran, constituting about 10% of the grain, is also a good source of highly nutritious fat which is now being commercially exploited. Besides bran is also a rich source of sterols, gamma-oryzanols and many phenolic compounds. Rice milling industry in some countries fortify the product with vitamin B1, B2 and iron to restore that lost during polishing operation. Magnesium is one of the minerals lost irretrievably during polishing but not restored by the processor. Same is true with fiber also. Parboiling process that enables some of the soluble nutrients present in the bran to be infused into the cotyledon, makes it more nutritious. Unfortunately consumption of parboiled rice is limited to Kerala and part of Karnataka states in India.

Normal white Rice can hardly be considered as a source of antioxidants but if recent research findings are confirmed, it can be cultivated for obtaining a nutraceutical product over riding its food value. It has been found that the total phenolics and total flavonoids in immature rice grains could be significantly higher than those in mature seeds. More interestingly the bio-availability of these antioxidants is very high as most of them are in free and soluble form like Ferulic acid, ready to be absorbed by the body. The tocols which are hydrophobic antioxidants are plentiful in developing rice grain and are mainly composed of alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocotrienol and alpha-tocotrienol. In addition, content of soluble dietary fiber in immature rice grains is found to be high that has benefits for gastrointestinal health. Based on the concentrations of bioactive compounds at different stages of rice grain development, immature grains between the 15th and 18th day after anthesis (full flowering) are suitable for nutraceutical applications.

The implications of the above findings are far reaching because here is an instance of a staple food being considered as a potential candidate for the nutraceutical industry. If rice is going to be harvested so early for use as a nutraceutical product, yield will be considerably less and consequently the cost can be very high. Rice farmers can have the choice of earmarking a part of their field for producing immature grains which can fetch them much higher returns. Before building castle in the air, concerted efforts are necessary to dwell deeper into these findings, confirm them, standardize the optimum conditions for getting maximum antioxidant content in the grain and develop delivery system for the market.