Food Engineering and Irradiation group of Food and Nutrition Division focuses on application of engineering principles and concepts to the handling, storage, processing, packaging, and distribution of food and related products. Food Safety through the use of nuclear techniques is the other important aspect of this group, using Co-60 gamma irradiator and adopting the advanced irradiation technologies to achieve UN SDG 02 zero hunger. Controlled amount of ionizing irradiation doses are applied to food and food products to kill the microorganism that causes food spoilage. Various doses were optimized for different desired applications including preservation, shelf life extension and sterilization of food products. Current research activities include: i) Hybrid Solar Dryer (Design, Process Optimization and Demonstration), ii) Shelf life extension of Meal Ready to Eat, iii) Disinfestation of Dates, iv) Sprout inhibition in bulb food, v) Adaptation of Innovating radiation processing technologies vi) Disinfestation and decontamination of dry fruits and, vii) Rapid Test Kit for Adulterants in Spices.
Food and Environmental Safety Group, of Food and Nutrition Division is focusing on mushroom cultivation optimization, popularization, field-based efficiency testing of biopesticide (plant extracts) against yellow rust of wheat. This group is also working on the on the development of probiotic and bio-preserved foods. Moreover, extending analytical services for the enhancement of food safety across the country. With the collaboration of Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) and Directorate of Science and Technology (DOST) Govt of KP, FND-NIFA has popularized mushroom cultivation technology in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), upper Punjab and Baluchistan, Pakistan. Moreover, this division has successfully cultivated Ganoderma medicinal mushroom for the first time among public R&D organizations in Pakistan. NIFA Ganoderma mushroom has phytochemically analyzed and confirmed/quantified for biologically active constituents (Triterpenoids, polyphenols, minerals and vitamins). Efficacy of botanical extracts (Melia azedarach (Bakain), Azadirachta indica (Neem) and Withania coagulans (Paneer doda) were tested for the management of yellow rust disease in Wheat. Theses extracts in emulsified form has the potential for formulation and its possible commercialization. Classical method of food preservations is either using different chemicals that are health hazardous or by applying extensive thermal processing techniques that deteriorated the quality of food. Similarly, application of radiation for food preservation has also consumer acceptance issues. Bio-preservation is an emerging food preservation method that has full potential to replace the existing traditional preservation techniques. In the Bio-preservative method, bacteriocins (secondary metabolites) are produced under stress conditions by different microorganisms like lactic acid bacteria and help to eliminate harmful microorganisms from food products. At FND-NIFA, Food and Environment Safety group started work on this aspect under the umbrella of ALP project recently. It is hopeful that by adopting these techniques our local industries can overcome the problem of food borne toxicity especially related with over use of hazardous chemicals to inhibit the growth of microorganisms which are responsible for food spoilage.
Food Nutrition section (FN) has carried out work in multiple aspects of Human Nutrition, including food fortification especially fortification of wheat flour with Iron and carried out various studies on stability and acceptability of iron components in humans in previous collaborations with Nutrition International (NI), formerly the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) such as “Iron fortification of roller milled wheat flour in Pakistan”. Owing to the competence available in its labs, the analytical work for the production feasibility phase of the project was also undertaken and subsequently, during the implementation phase, our labs acted as reference lab for analysis of the fortified wheat flour samples collected from flourmills all over the country. As an output of our R&D work, NIFA Iron Spot Test Kit for qualitative analysis of fortified iron in wheat flour samples was developed which is the evidence of our commitment and due diligence. The Kit is now being extensively used by various Public and Private sector stakeholders including GAIN, NI, World Food Program (WFP), regulatory authorities and more than 170 flour mills around the country. FN has been actively interacting with the relevant stakeholders for dissemination of knowledge and technology about wheat flour fortification. FN has also successfully completed a project entitled “Fortification of Vanaspati ghee with Red Palm Oil as natural source of Vitamin A” in collaboration with Malaysian Palm Oil Board and developed Vitamin-A Spot Test Kit for qualitative analysis of fortified Vitamin-A in Oils and ghee samples. Another much appreciated project on “Iodine stability study in different climatic conditions and different packaging materials” was carried out by FN around the country by storing iodine at four PAEC centers in Karachi, Nawabshah, Faisalabad and Swat having different climatic conditions and geographic regions, as a result of this nationwide study a Rapid Test Kit for Testing Salts Fortified with Potassium Iodate was developed which is being widely used by a large number of public and private sector stakeholders. FN has functioned as resource lab for country wide survey of iodized salt for iodine contents conducted by MI, and recognized as “Reference Lab” in the region for analysis of iodized salt samples for USI/IDD Program funded by MI. Along with food fortification program, state of the art labs of FN has been established with the help of IAEA to carry out analytical work on Vitamin A analysis.