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Prasadam `Appam` & `Aravana` with Enhanced Taste by CFTRI Technology

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

To enhance the taste of the Prasadam of the 'appam' and 'Saravana' of the Lord Ayyappa temple in Kerala, there shall be Technical guidance of Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore from Mid May 2018.

The 'Sabarimala Appam' is a hard but sweet ball made of rice, kadalippazham (a variety of banana), ghee and so on, while 'Aravana' is a thick sweet dessert made of jaggery.

CFTRI is a Council of Scientific & Industrial  Research (CSIR) laboratory working on  Research in the area of food safety mainly focuses on genomic, and nutrigenomic approaches for identifying genetically modified foods, food pathogens, biomarkers, plant-based toxicants, allergens, adulterants and nutritional labelling.

Indian agri-food sector though has experienced increased production of essential food commodities. Also, there are losses occurring in the chain of post-harvest operations. These deteriorative loses are the result of accelerated physiological, chemical and microbiological processes occurring in food commodities.

The Food Protectants and Infestation Control deals with R&D in the areas of post-harvest protective measures relating to pest and infestation control in stored food grains, spices and processed foods.

Advanced multiscale modeling for understanding protein structure and functional relationships towards food applications and disease mechanisms. In addition, mandate includes developing and validating robust high end analytical methodologies (FT-IR, FT-NIR, HPLC, GC-MS, LC-MS/MS, IRMS, ICP etc) for oils and fats, milk and milk products, maximum residue limits of chemical and industrial contaminants and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) including pesticides and antibiotic residues and tolerance levels of toxic metals chiefly occurring in food chain that aids in quality assurance and in implementation of new regulations of food standards. Also research is conducted on anti-nutritional factors such as alkaloids, protease inhibitors, tannins and phytates and on permissible levels of natural toxicants such as agaric acid, hydrocyanic acid, aflatoxins and mycotoxins and biological contaminants (bacterial and fungal species) that cause diseases and shelf-life studies of food products. 

CFTRI has developed Smart Cart, a highly energy efficient mobile infrastructure of kitchen to produce and deliver safe and hygienic food by street food vendors. Another contribution is towards monitoring the quality and safety of food using a robust tool kit for rapid analysis of food which is being popularized widely.

The strength of the Food Protectants and Infestation Control lies in the multidisciplinary approach with experts in the areas of fumigation, stored product entomology, pesticide chemistry, biopesticides, microbial bioremediation and pesticide toxicology.
Protecting stored food products from storage pests forms a basis for food security and food safety. Insect resistance to conventional fumigants and insecticides has been the major threat leading to control failures. Alternative strategies are required to combat the existing resistance and thereby achieve pest free storage of food commodities.

In view of above, we focusses to develop alternate strategies to manage insect resistance against conventional fumigants, to search and investigate the efficacy of new fumigants, to study the importance of modified or controlled atmosphere treatments for residue free storage of food grains, to develop phytochemical and essential oils based bio-fumigants for infestation control and to understand the infestation tactics of insect pests to develop insect detection and control devices. The Food Protectants and Infestation Control is recognized by Insecticide Regulatory Authority of India / Central Insecticide Board for industrial services and training programs on pest management in foods.

The 'appam' and 'Saravana', the sweet ball and jaggery dessert, which are sold as prasadam (offering) at the famed Lord Ayyappa temple in Kerala, are set to get a makeover from the next pilgrim season. The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), which provides guidance for making delicious 'laddu' and 'panchamrutham,' offered at the famed Tirumala Tirupati temple and Lord Muruga's shrine in Palani respectively, are now gearing up to give a new touch to the prasadam of Sabarimala temple.

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the hillock Ayyappa Temple, has roped in the CFTRI to enhance the quality, taste and shelf-life of the 'appam' and 'aravana,'" which has large number of takers.

Located atop holy hills of Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district, the Lord Ayyappa shrine draws lakhs of pilgrims from and outside the country including foreigners during the annual pilgrim season from November to January. " TDB president, A Padmakumar said the temple would open for the monthly pooja on May 15 and an MoU between the Board and the CFTRI is expected to be signed on the next day.

A team of TDB officials recently visited the government-run CFTRI's Mysore campus to evaluate its production mechanism. "As CFTRI is a government agency, we have to decide and finalise the terms and conditions. We hope to sign the MoU with them on May 16," Padmakumar said.

"The CFTRI experts would also impart training to the temple staff who prepare the prasadams during their visit," he said.

If everything goes as planned, the 'appam' and 'aravana,' with the 'CFTRI touch', would be made available to devotees from the next pilgrim season, he said.

The TDB, however, has no plans to increase the price of the packed prasadams.

Detailing the changes to be made to the prasadams, Padmakumar said there may not be much changes in the ingredients, but the overall taste would be enhanced.

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