Tag Archives: Food

Don’t Be Fooled by Posts about Chinese Plastic Rice on Facebook!


By T. V. Antony Raj


I saw the following video posted on Facebook without any description, leaving viewers to speculate.



As of today, this video on Facebook has 4,310,649 views, 7.7K likes, 8,784 shares and 23 Comments.

The first comment that I saw at the top said, “What the hell is going on.”

This video of a woman stirring the contents in the pot over a fire was followed by a video that shows an easterner recycling plastic using machinery that produces rice-shaped plastic pellets for manufacturing plastic products.



After the above videos  followed the image of a packet of Thai Milagrosa Scented Rice with Chinese letters displayed prominently .


A packet of Thai Milagrosa Scented Rice with Chinese letters displayed prominently.
A packet of Thai Milagrosa Scented Rice with Chinese letters displayed prominently.


Putting three and three together, almost 95% of the Facebook readers deduced that the woman in the first video was making plastic rice.

One wise person popped up the question, “What is happening in the world today?” and another, weak in geography said, “Read your labels at all times. If it was made in China leave it on the shelf.” And a ‘know-all’ person from Oba, Nigeria wrote a lengthy comment on “How to Identify Plastic Rice or Fake Rice“.

By the way, not all Facebook members are fools. A woman from Nassau City, New Providence, Bahamas, said, “There is fake plastic rice, however, that’s not what the lady is doing in this particular video… Yall so silly I would explain what that is but nah it’s so hilarious. ” But she never revealed what she knew. Maybe she herself did not know what it really was.

Finally,  a comment by Shana Wiltshire from Brooklyn, New York who said, “Lol.. this is how rice goes from brown to puffed white rice… nothing wrong with this… and it’s an Indian method not Chinese“, assuaged  my curiosity.

Yes. The woman in the first video was making popped puff rice.

Here is a video showing the indigenous method of making popped puff rice for sale in India.





Do Soft Drinks Contain Pesticide?


By T.V. Antony Raj


People just fall prey to attractive images carrying false information on Facebook and other social media. They, in turn, copy those images and become accessories to propagating the untruths.


Pesticide in soft drinks?
Pesticide in soft drinks?


For example, in the above image which I came across on Facebook today, the caption in Tamil says:

The amount of pesticides in the soft drinks you consume.

I have my doubts about this post. I don’t think these soft drinks have pesticide in them as depicted in the image.

But some soft drinks do have harmful chemicals that may impair our health.

Within the European Union and Switzerland, substances used as food additives are coded with E numbers. The “E” stands for “Europe”. The E numbers on food labels are common throughout the European Union.

Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate

Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate are widely used as food preservatives, with E numbers E210 and E211 respectively.

Benzoic acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Benzoic acid (Source – Wikipedia)


Benzoic acid (E210) has the chemical Formula C7H6O2 (or C6H5COOH). It is a simple aromatic carboxylic acid. It is a colourless crystalline solid and occurs in nature at low levels in apples, cinnamon, ripe cloves, cranberries, greengage plums, and prunes.


Sodium Benzoate (Source - Wikipedia)
Sodium Benzoate (Source – Wikipedia)

Sodium benzoate (E211) has the chemical formula NaC7H5O2. It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and exists in this form when dissolved in water.

Most soft drinks have added sodium benzoate in permissible amounts that act as a preservative which are in most cases harmless.

However, it is advisable to drop from your diet all benzoates if you have any health problems, especially if you are suffering from: any Cancer, any autoimmune disease or disorder, skin diseases & disorders like: psoriasis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, acne, folliculitis, KP, any Intestinal disorders like Ulcerative Colitis, constipation, Crohns Disease, IBD, IBS, Candida, SIBO, body odour,  Allergies, Asthma, etc.

Acids in soft drinks

All citrus flavoured and grape flavoured soft drinks have organic acids found in nature to provide the characteristic fruity tang. The citrus flavoured soft drinks contain citric acid (E330) and grape flavoured soft drinks have tartaric acid (E334)..

Citric acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Citric acid (Source – Wikipedia)


Tartaric acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Tartaric acid (Source – Wikipedia)
Phosphoric acid

According to many studies, what is harmful is phosphoric acid added to cola drinks.

It is true that Phosphorus-containing substances occur (0.1%-0.5%) in foods such as milk, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, and egg yolks. But phosphoric acid per se is harmful.

Phosphoric acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Phosphoric acid (Source – Wikipedia)


Phosphoric acid is a mineral (inorganic) acid having the chemical formula H3PO4. It is also known as E338, orthophosphoric acid, and phosphoric (V) acid. It is a clear, colourless, odourless liquid with a syrupy consistency.

Food-grade phosphoric acid is a mass-produced chemical. It is available in large quantities at a low price.

Studies on phosphoric acid

Due to the use of phosphoric acid, cola is actually more acidic than lemon juice or vinegar! The vast amount of sugar acts to mask and balance the acidity.

In some epidemiological studies, phosphoric acid, used in many cola drinks has been linked to chronic kidney disease and lower bone density. A study by the Epidemiology Branch of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, concludes that drinking two or more colas per day doubled the risk of chronic kidney disease.

Between 1996 and 2001, a total of 1672 women and 1148 men took part in a study using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. To collect dietary information, the study used a food frequency questionnaire with specific questions about the number of servings of cola and other carbonated beverages.  It also differentiated between regular, caffeine-free, and diet drinks.

The results, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provide evidence to support the theory that women who consume cola daily have lower bone density. Though the total phosphorus intake was not significantly higher in daily cola consumers than in nonconsumers, the calcium-to-phosphorus ratios were lower.

However, in  1998, a study titled “Increased incidence of fractures in middle-aged and elderly men with low intakes of phosphorus and zinc” published in Osteoporosis international: a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA 8 (4): 333–340, suggests that insufficient intake of phosphorus leads to lower bone density. The study does not examine the effect of phosphoric acid, which binds with magnesium and calcium in the digestive tract to form salts that are not absorbed, but rather studies general phosphorus intake.

In 2001, a study by R. P. Heaney and K. Rafferty titled “Carbonated beverages and urinary calcium excretion” published in The American journal of clinical nutrition 74 (3): 343–347 states that using calcium-balance methods they found no impact of carbonated soft drinks containing phosphoric acid on calcium excretion.

The authors conducted their study among 20 to 40-year-old women who drank three or more cups (680 ml) of a carbonated soft drink per day. The effect of various soft drinks (with caffeine and without; with phosphoric acid and with citric acid), water, and milk on the calcium balance was compared in the study.

Heaney and Rafferty found that, relative to water, only milk and the two caffeine-containing soft drinks increased urinary calcium. The calcium loss associated with the consumption of caffeinated soft drinks was about equal to that found previously for caffeine alone. Phosphoric acid without caffeine had no impact on urine calcium and did not increase the loss of urinary calcium related to caffeine.

Because studies have shown that the effect of caffeine is compensated for by reduced calcium losses later in the day, the authors  concluded that the net effect of carbonated beverages—including those with caffeine and phosphoric acid—is negligible, and that the skeletal effects of carbonated soft drink consumption are likely due to dietary milk displacement.

Other chemicals such as caffeine (also a significant component of popular common cola drinks) were also suspected as possible contributors to low bone density, due to the known effect of caffeine on calciuria.

Remove rust with phosphoric acid

By the way, phosphoric acid can be used to remove rust from articles.

The following video shows a person removing rust using Coca-Cola. Many prefer the Diet Coke instead of regular Coke because the former is not sticky like the latter.


Hurry Curry to Brazil for Bangladeshi FIFA Fans


Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj


Mustafa Azim, a director of Imperial Air Salvage, is a Bangladeshi. When Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster The Edge of Tomorrow was being shot at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, the Imperial Air Salvage provided planes to be blown up on the set.

Azim and a couple of his friends have tickets for the World Cup final. Many of his football crazy friends from Bangladesh are already in Brazil. Since curry, rice, and fish are the main items in their regular diet, they were disappointed when they realized that there are no Indian restaurants in Brazil and intimated him.

Waiter Habib Miah with restaurant owner and chef Mohammed Wahid (Source: worthingherald.co.uk)
Waiter Habib Miah with restaurant owner and chef Mohammed Wahid (Source: worthingherald.co.uk)

So, Azim approached Mohammed Wahid, the owner of Chilcha, an Award Winning Indian Restaurant in Montague Street, Worthing, West Sussex, to arrange a 12-person delivery to Brazil of some of their favorite dishes. “Chilcha” is the Bengali word for happiness.

Azim was already aware of Wahid’s delicious, appetizing cooking when the latter provided catering on the set of The Edge of Tomorrow at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden.

Mohammed Wahid owner and chef of Chilcha Restaurant in Montague Street, Worthing. (Source: m.theargus.co.uk)
Mohammed Wahid owner and chef of Chilcha Restaurant in Montague Street, Worthing. (Source: m.theargus.co.uk)

Wahid was surprised at first and agreed to cater to him.

Mustafa Azim, will fly into Shoreham Airport on a chartered plane to collect the dishes. He will then head to an airport near Heathrow, before boarding a commercial plane to take him and the food to Brazil.

The overall cost of the delivery is £4200: £1200 for the curry, £1800 for the flight to Brazil, £1000 for a chartered flight to Shoreham to collect the takeaway, £100 landing and parking charges, and £100 for the taxi to the hotel.


Sugar – Part 3: Oh Sweet Poison, Thy Name is Sugar!

Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

“It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar.”
Richard Johnson, Nephrologist, University of Colorado Denver


What does the word “sugar” mean to you?

To me, anything that tastes sweet: cane sugar (sucrose), beet sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, honey, syrups, sugary drinks, molasses, agave the popular ingredient for tequila, chocolates, toffees, confectioneries, etc.

Baby and cake icing (Source: tammydeyoungdesigns.com)
Baby and cake icing (Source: tammydeyoungdesigns.com)

Most of us had our first singular experience of sweetness when we licked the dab of cake icing or a drop of honey from the finger of one of our loving parents.

Even though sugar tastes delicious it is not a food. Though it is habit-forming it is not a drug, but many people get addicted to it. The more sugar you taste, the more you want! It gives instant energy and quickens the muscles, but it is not a nutrient.

Old Lady enjoying her huge ice cream (Source: Lupe Clemente/flickr.com)
Old Lady enjoying her huge ice cream (Source: Lupe Clemente/flickr.com)

Sugar is the universal name for a variety of carbohydrates, derived from various sources.

Carbohydrates supply energy for working muscles. They provide fuel for the central nervous system, enable fat metabolism, and prevent protein from being used as energy.

Before learning to grow food, the carbohydrates that our ancestors consumed for energy must have come from whatever plants that were available to them according to the season.

Around 6,000 BC, people in New Guinea cultivated sugarcane. They drank the sweet juice by chewing the stalks of the sugarcane. The cultivation of sugarcane spread gradually from island to island, and around 1000 BC reached the Asian mainland. By 500 BC, the Indians were processing crystalline sugar from sugarcane. By 600 AD sugar found its way to China, Persia, and northern Africa. Eventually by the 11th century, it reached Europe. In England between the 18th and 19th centuries consumption of sugar increased by 1,500 percent.

By the mid 19th century, Europeans, Americans and the people of the civilized world became habituated to the use of refined sugar and considered it as a staple item of food.

Now, we consume sugar daily in one form or another because our body cells depend on carbohydrates for energy. An ingrained love for sweetness has evolved within us and we use sugar generously to sweeten almost all our raw, cooked, baked, frozen food and drinks.

There is good and bad food. Health experts point their finger accusingly at all foods that have sugar and brand them bad. They say that we are in fact poisoning ourselves by satiating our sweet tooth. Some even use the adjective ‘toxic’ to describe sugar and say it disrupts the body’s usual hormonal cycles and endangers our internal and external organs.

All experts say the use of sugar results in high rates of obesity, metabolic disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other ailments.

Testing urine by smelling and tasting was once the primary method used to diagnose diseases. Hippocrates (460-377 BC) of Kos noticed that a patient’s urine smelled differently as the course of fever changed. The Greco-Roman doctor Galen (131-201 AD) of Pergamon believed that urine revealed the health of the liver, where blood was supposedly produced. He stated, evaluating the urine was the best way to find whether or not the body’s four humours – blood, phlegm, yellow and black bile – were in equilibrium.

Thomas Willis (1621–1675) by John Wollaston (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford)
Thomas Willis (1621–1675) by John Wollaston (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford)

In 1675, Thomas Willis (1621-1675), an English physician who played an important part in the history of anatomy, neurology and psychiatry, and a founding member of the Royal Society of London, was the first in modern medical literature to diagnose diabetes by the taste of urine. He observed that the urine of the diabetics tasted “wonderfully sweet, as if it were imbued with honey or sugar.” His taste test impelled him to append the latin word ‘mellitus‘ for honey to this form of diabetes. Ancient  Hindu, Chinese, and Arab texts also have reports of the same sweet taste in urine of patients suffering from diabetes.

Haven Emerson (1874-1957), Emeritus Professor of Public Health Practice at Columbia University, New York, pointed out that significant increase in deaths from diabetes between 1900 and 1920 corresponded with an increase in sugar consumption.

In the 1960s a series of experiments on animals and humans conducted by John Yudkin, the British nutrition expert revealed that high amounts of sugar in the diet led to high levels of fat that paved the way for heart disease and diabetes. But Yudkin’s warning was not heard because other scientists blamed the rising rates of obesity and heart disease to cholesterol caused by too much saturated fat in the diet.

Even though the Americans changed their diet by consuming less fat than they did 20 years before, obesity increased.


The culprit was sugar and fructose in particular.

Now, we eat most of our sugar mainly as sucrose or table sugar. Americans include high-fructose corn syrup as well.

One molecule each of two simple sugars – glucose and fructose, having the same chemical formula, but with slightly different molecular structures, bond together to form a molecule of sucrose.

Because fructose is about twice as sweet as glucose, an inexpensive syrup mixing the two was an appealing alternative to sucrose from sugarcane and beets. In the 1960s, the U.S. corn industry developed a new technology to convert corn-derived glucose into fructose from which high fructose corn syrup was produced. Despite its name, the high fructose corn syrup has 55% fructose, 42% glucose, and three percent other sugars.

The various avatars of sugar are metabolized differently in the body. Our body cells prefer the simple sugars fructose and glucose to the heavier disaccharide sucrose. Enzymes such as sucrase in the intestine split sucrose into fructose and glucose instantaneously. Glucose travels through the bloodstream to all of our tissues.

The human body regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose reaches all the tissues in the body through the bloodstream. It stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, the hormone which helps remove excess glucose from  the blood, and boosts production of leptin, the hormone which suppresses hunger.

All body cells convert glucose into energy, but only liver cells can convert fructose to energy by metabolizing it into glucose and lactate.

Too much fructose from sugars and sugary drinks including fruit juices, taxes the liver by making it spend much energy on converting and leaving less for all its other functions. This leads to excess production of uric acid that induces formation of gout, kidney stones and leads to high blood pressure. According to some researchers large amounts of fructose encourage people to eat more than they need since it raises the levels of grehlin, the hormone that stimulates hunger.

Sugar also triggers the body to increase production of Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol often informally called bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol transports their content of many fat molecules into artery walls, attract macrophages, and thus drive atherosclerosis.

Also, excess fructose increases fat production, especially in the liver. The fat converts to circulating triglycerides that are easily stored in fatty tissue, leading to obesity and a risk factor for clogged arteries and cardiovascular diseases.

Some researchers have linked a fatty liver to insulin resistance – a condition in which cells become unusually less responsive to insulin, exhausting the pancreas until it loses the ability to regulate blood glucose levels properly.

Richard J. Johnson, a nephrologist at the University of Colorado Denver has proposed that uric acid produced by fructose metabolism also promotes insulin resistance thought to be a major contributor to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, the disorders that often occur together.

Richard J. Johnson, MD, University of Colorado
Richard J. Johnson, MD, University of Colorado Denver

Rich Cohen in his article “Sugar Love” (A not so sweet story) published in the National Geographic quotes Dr. Richard J. Johnson:

“It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar.

Why is it that one-third of adults [worldwide] have high blood pressure, when in 1900 only 5 percent had high blood pressure? Why did 153 million people have diabetes in 1980, and now we’re up to 347 million? Why are more and more Americans obese? Sugar, we believe, is one of the culprits, if not the major culprit.”

Now, more than one-third of adults and nearly 12.5 million adolescents and children are obese in the United States. In 1980 about 5.6  million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes. However, in 2011 more than 20 million Americans were found to be diabetic.

Dr. Arun Bal, diabetic foot surgeon warns:

“India is facing an epidemic of diabetes. At present, confirmed diabetes patients in India are 67 million, with another 30 million in prediabetes group. By 2030, India will have the largest number of [diabetic] patients in the world. Diabetes is not only a blood sugar problem, but brings along other complications as well.”

Dr. Suresh Vijan, Interventional cardiologist, also warns:

“The incidence of heart disease is increasing at a rapid rate. It was 1.09% in the 1950s, increased to 9.7 % in 1990, and 11% by 2000. This rising trend will make India the heart disease capital of the world… Indians face a dual risk of heart disease and diabetes. The risk of death due to myocardial infarction is three times higher in diabetics as compared with non-diabetics. Life expectancy too is reduced by 30% in diabetics as compared to non diabetics; this translates into a loss of eight years of life… Increased consumption of dense-rich foods along with increasing sedentary lifestyle has increased the incidence of diabetes and heart disease.”

Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, is crusading against the use of sugar. His YouTube videos “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” and “Fat Chance: Fructose 2.0” have gone viral.

It’s not just the heart, diabetes takes a severe toll on vision too.


Don't Lick the spoon !(Source: news.discovery.com)
Don’t Lick the spoon ! (Source: news.discovery.com)



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Sugar – Part 2: The Different Avatars of Sugar

Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

Image source: nourition.com
Image source: nourition.com

Sugar is the universal name for a variety of carbohydrates or saccharides that have a sweet taste.

The word ‘sugar’ immediately brings to our mind the white crystals we add to tea and coffee to make it sweet.

However, scientifically, the term ‘sugar’ refers to various types of substances derived from different sources: simple sugars known as monosaccharides, and compound sugars: disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.

Any word that ends with “-ose” would most probably denote a sugar.

The range of sweetness we experience when eating foods is determined by the different proportions of sugars found in them.

Many chemically-different substances that are non-carbohydrates may also have a sweet taste, but are not classified as sugars. Some of these are used as low-calorie food substitutes for sugar and are categorized as artificial sweeteners.


Saccharides (Greek sacchar: sugar)  are one of the most important biomolecules. They are also known as carbohydrates and control the energy in cells, provide structural integrity, and provide a role in the immune system, development and fertilization in all living things.

Natural saccharides are generally simple carbohydrates called monosaccharides having the general formula (CH2O)n  where n is three or more.

Plants use carbohydrates to store energy and to provide supporting structures. Animals and humans consume plants to get their share of carbohydrates as a source of carbon atoms for synthesis of other compounds.

Carbohydrates supply energy for working muscles. They provide the fuel for the central nervous system, enable fat metabolism, and prevent protein from being used as energy.


Monosaccharides (Greek monos: single, sacchar: sugar) or simple sugars are the most basic units of carbohydrates with the general formula C6H12O. Examples of Monosaccharides include Glucose (dextrose), fructose (levulose) and galactose. They have one sugar unit with six carbon atoms and five hydroxyl groups (−OH).  They are the building blocks of disaccharides and polysaccharides (such as cellulose and starch). 

Monosaccharides normally found in food (Source: socialphy.com)
Source: socialphy.com

Each carbon atom that supports a hydroxyl group (except for the first and last) is chiral (a molecule that has a non-superposable mirror image), giving rise to a number of isomeric dextro– and laevo-rotatory forms all with the same chemical formula. For instance, galactose and glucose are both aldohexoses, but have different physical structures and chemical properties.

Monosaccharides form an aqueous solution when dissolved in water.

Glucose also known as D-glucose, dextrose, corn sugar, grape sugar and blood sugar is a simple dietary monosaccharide found in plants. It is one of the three dietary monosaccharides, along with fructose and galactose, that are absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion.


The name “glucose” is derived from the Greek word γλευχος, meaning “sweet wine, must”. The suffix “-ose” denotes a sugar.

In a biological sense, glucose is found everywhere. It occurs naturally in fruits and plant juices. It is the primary product of photosynthesis. Most ingested carbohydrates are converted into glucose during digestion and it is the form of sugar that is transported around the bodies of animals in the bloodstream. It is used as an energy source by most organisms, from bacteria to humans.

Use of glucose may be by either aerobic respiration, anaerobic respiration, or fermentation. Glucose is the human body’s key source of energy, through aerobic respiration, providing about 3.75 kilo calories (16 kilojoules) of food energy per gram. Aerobic respiration requires oxygen.

Simplified reaction:

C6H12O6 (s) + 6 O2 (g) → 6 CO2 (g) + 6 H2O (l) + heat
ΔG = −2880 kJ per mol of C6H12O6

The negative ΔG indicates that the reaction can occur spontaneously.

Glucose can be manufactured from starch by the addition of enzymes or in the presence of acids. Glucose syrup is a liquid form of glucose that is widely used in the manufacture of foodstuffs.

Fructose or fruit sugar, is a simple dietary monosaccharide found in honey, fruits that grow on trees and vines, flowers, berries, and most root vegetables. It is the sweetest of the sugars.


Fructose, a 6-carbon polyhydroxyketone is an isomer of glucose – both have the same molecular formula (C6H12O6but they differ structurally. It is often bonded to glucose to form the disaccharide sucrose.

Along with glucose and galactose, fructose is absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion.

Commercially, fructose is processed from sugarcane, sugar beets, and maize.

Galactose (Greek galakt: milk), a monosaccharide sugar, is a constituent of the disaccharide lactose along with the glucose. It does not occur in the free state. It is less sweet than glucose.


Glactose, is a component of the antigens found on the surface of red blood cells that determine blood groups.


Sucrose, maltose, and lactose are compound sugars or disaccharides, with the general formula  C12H22O11. They are formed by the combination of two monosaccharide molecules with the exclusion of a molecule of water.

Sucrose is the granulated sugar that we customarily use as additive in our food. It is a disaccharide with one molecule of glucose covalently linked to one molecule of fructose.


Animated sucrose molecule model
Model of a sucrose molecule (Author: RedAndr)

Sucrose is found in the stems of sugar cane and roots of sugar beet. It also occurs naturally alongside fructose and glucose in other plants, in particular fruits and some roots such as carrots.

After eating, during digestion, a number of enzymes known as sucrase split sucrose into its constituent parts, glucose and fructose.

Maltose also known as maltobiose or malt sugar, is a disaccharide formed during the germination of certain grains, the most notable one being barley, which is converted into malt, the source of the sugar’s name. It is less sweet than sucrose, glucose, or fructose.


A molecule of maltose is formed by the combination of two molecules of glucose.

Maltose is formed in the body during the digestion of starch by the enzyme amylase and is itself broken down during digestion by the enzyme maltase

Lactose is the naturally occurring disaccharide derived from galactose and glucose found in milk. A molecule of lactose.is formed by the combination of a molecule of galactose with a molecule of glucose.


A molecule of galactose is formed by the combination of a molecule of glucose with a molecule of lactose.

After consuming milk, during digestion, lactose is broken down into its constituent parts by the enzyme lactase. Children have this enzyme in them. In some adults the enzyme lactase does not form as they grow up and are unable to digest lactose.


Oligosaccharides (Greek oligos: a few, sacchar: sugar) are polymeric carbohydrate molecules containing a small number, typically three to nine, monosaccharide units. They are commonly found on the plasma membrane of animal cells where they play a role in cell–cell recognition.

Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), also sometimes called oligofructose or oligofructan, are oligosaccharide fructans. They consist of short chains of fructose molecules.

FOS occur naturally and are found in many vegetables.

FOS exhibit sweetness levels between 30 and 50 percent of sugar in commercially prepared syrups and are used as an alternative sweetener. Due to consumer demand for healthier and calorie-reduced foods, FOS emerged commercially in the 1980s.

The range of sweetness we experience when eating foods is determined by the different proportions of sugars found in them.

Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) occur naturally, and consist of short chains of galactose molecules. These compounds can be only partially digested by humans.

Mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) are widely used in animal feed to improve gastrointestinal health, energy levels and performance. They are normally obtained from the yeast cell walls of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.


Polysaccharides are polymeric carbohydrate molecules composed of long chains of monosaccharide units bound together by glycosidic bonds. Typically, polysaccharides contain more than ten monosaccharide units.

Cellulose, starch, glycogen, xanthan gum in plants, etc., are polysaccharides.

3D structure of cellulose, a beta-glucan polysaccharide. (Autho - Ben Mills)
3D structure of cellulose, a beta-glucan polysaccharide. (Autho – Ben Mills)

Polysaccharides, have a general formula of Cx(H2O)y where x is usually a large number between 200 and 2500. Considering that the repeating units in the polymer backbone are often six-carbon monosaccharides, and the general formula can also be represented as (C6H10O5)n where 40≤n≤3000.

Definitions of how large a carbohydrate must be to fall into the categories polysaccharides or oligosaccharides vary according to personal opinions of scientists.

Polysaccharides are an important class of biological polymers. Their function in living organisms is usually either structure or storage-related. Starch (a polymer of glucose) is used as a storage polysaccharide in plants, being found in the form of both amylose and the branched amylopectin. In animals, the structurally similar glucose polymer is the more densely branched glycogen, sometimes called ‘animal starch’. Glycogen’s properties allow it to be metabolized more quickly, which suits the active lives of moving animals.

The range of sweetness we experience when eating foods is determined by the different proportions of sugars found in them.


← Previous – Sugar – Part 1: History of Canesugar

Next → Sugar – Part 3: Oh Sweet Poison, Thy Name is Sugar!



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Sugar – Part 1: History of Canesugar

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

Sugar is the universal name for a variety of sweet-tasting carbohydrates, derived from various sources. Sugar is used in food, sweet meats, confectioneries, chocolates, alcoholic liqueurs, sweet beverages, etc.

The English word ‘sugar’ is derived from the Arabic word سكر sukkar, which came from the Persian شکر shekar, itself derived from Sanskrit शर्करा śarkarā, which originated from Tamil சர்க்கரை Sarkkarai. Thus, the etymology of the English word ‘sugar’, in a way, reflects the spread of the commodity from India to the western world.

Rich Cohen in his article “Sugar Love” (A not so sweet story) published in the National Geographic says:

“In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. In that span of 30 years, world production of cane and beet sugar exploded from 2.8 million tons a year to 13 million plus. Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, or more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.”


Most plants have sugar, but only sugarcane and sugar beet are endowed with sufficient concentrations for efficient extraction. Around 80% of the world’s sugar is derived from sugarcane.

Sugarcane crop
Sugarcane crop

Sugarcane is any of several species of tall perennial true grass of the genus Saccharum, tribe Andropogoneae, native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of South Asia, and used for sugar production. They have stout jointed fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar. They grow six to 19 feet (two to six meters) tall. All sugarcane species interbreed and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids.

The crop has been cultivated in tropical climates in the Far East since ancient times.

The island of New Guinea.
The island of New Guinea.

Eight thousand years ago, sugar featured prominently in the food of the inhabitants of the island of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, after Greenland. During sacred religious ceremonies their priests sipped water sweetened with sugar from coconut shells.

The use of sugarcane spread gradually from island to island, and around 1000 BC reached the Asian mainland.

By 500 BC, the Indians were processing crystalline sugar from sugarcane. In India sugar was used as a medicine for headaches, stomach flutters, impotence, etc. The art of sugar refinement passed from master to apprentice and remained a secret science.

Sugar found its way to Persia around 600 AD and as a luxury rulers entertained their guests with a variety of sweets. From there Arabs carried the knowledge and love for sugar. The Arabs perfected sugar refinement made it into an industry. “Wherever they went, the Arabs brought with them sugar, the product and the technology of its production,” wrote Sidney Mintz in Sweetness and Power. “Sugar, we are told, followed the Koran.”

From there sugar traveled with migrants and monks to China, Persia, northern Africa and eventually to Europe in the 11th century.

The first Europeans to know about sugar were the British and French crusaders that went east to wrest the Holy Land from the Arabs. Having their taste buds excited by sugar they returned with stories and memories of sweets. Unfortunately, they found the temperate climates in Europe unsuitable for cultivation of sugarcane, which needed tropical, rain-drenched fields to grow.

The sugar that reached the West through a trickle of Arab traders was rare and was classified as a spice. Due to its high cost only by the nobility consumed it.

With the spread of the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s, trade with the East became more difficult for the Europeans. To the Western elite who had fallen under the spell of sweets were propelled to develop new sources of sugar.

So, it was the age of exploration for the Europeans – the search for new territories around the world.

Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu  aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).
Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).

Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460), the third child of King John I of Portugal, better known as Henry the Navigator, was an important figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire and the Age of Discoveries in total. He was responsible for the early growth of European exploration and maritime trade with other continents.  In 1419, Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique claimed Madeira, an archipelago about 250 miles (400 km) north of Tenerife, Canary Islands, in the north Atlantic Ocean. In 1425, Infante Henry sent sugarcane with an early group of colonists who settled in Madeira.

Sugarcane found its way to other newly discovered Atlantic islands such as the Cape Verde Islands, and the Canaries.

Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

In 1493, when Christopher Columbus set off on his second voyage to the New World, he too carried cane. He planted the New World’s first sugarcane in Hispaniola.

From then on dawned the era of mass sugar production in the slave plantations in the Caribbean islands.

Within decades the Portuguese and the Spanish expanded sugarcane plantation to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Cuba and Brazil. They cleared the rainforests for sugarcane plantations. The Portuguese turned Brazil into an early boom colony, with more than 100,000 slaves producing tons of sugar.

The harvested crop of sugarcane was crushed and ground and then pressed to extract the cane juice, which was thickened into a syrup by boiling. This produced sugar crystals, which were dried before storage. The raw sugar was piled in the holds of ships and carried to Europe for refining.

Until the 15th and 16th centuries, sugar was classed with nutmeg and cardamom as a luxury spice enjoyed only by the wealthy upper classes.

The original British sugar island was Barbados found by a British captain on May 14, 1625. Tobacco and cotton were grown in the early years, but sugarcane overtook these two on the island as it did wherever it was planted in the Caribbean. Sadly, however, the fields got depleted, the water table drained within a century, and the ambitious planters had left Barbados in search of other island to exploit.

In the 17th century the British established large-scale sugar plantations in the West Indies. The price of sugar fell. Sugar changed from a luxury to a staple item. Since the fall in price made it affordable to the middle class and the poor, the demand for sugar increased.

But the sugar trade was tarnished by its colonial heritage of inhumanity and exploitation. Profits from the sugar trade helped build the British Empire. When the enslaved native population dwindled due to disease or war the planters replaced them with more slaves brought from the west coast of Africa with the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade.

By 1720 Jamaica became number one in the sugar market.

Until the slave trade was banned in Britain in 1807, more than half of the 11 million Africans shipped to the New World ended up on sugar plantations.

The slaves from Africa found the life hard. In the Caribbean millions died in the fields, pressing houses, or while trying to escape. Gradually the people in Europe came to know and understand the hardship of the slaves. While reformers preached abolition, housewives boycotted cane sugar produced by the slaves.

François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.
François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.

In 1759, a slave in Voltaire’s Candide, ou l’Optimisme, missing both a hand and a leg, explains his mutilation:

“When we work in the sugar mills and we catch our finger in the millstone, they cut off our hand; when we try to run away, they cut off a leg; both things have happened to me. It is at this price that you eat sugar in Europe.”

William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) - an English religious and political orator .
William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) – an English religious and political orator .

William Johnson Fox (March 1, 1786 – June 3, 1864), an English religious and political orator in An Address to the people of Great Britain on the propriety of abstaining from West Indian sugar and rum. [London], 1791 wrote:

“So necessarily connected are our consumption of the commodity, and the misery resulting from it, that in every pound of sugar used, (the produce of slaves imported from Africa) we may be considered as consuming two ounces of human fleshA French writer observes, ‘That he cannot look on a piece of sugar without conceiving it stained with spots of human blood.'”

Fox’s pamphlet was widely circulated, and helped promote the idea that sugar was contaminated with the blood and flesh of the suffering slaves who produced it. Nonetheless, production of sugar never stopped.

Current Production of Sugar

The use of sugar beet as a new source of production was developed in Germany in the early 19th century. By the end of the century, production of beet sugar had spread across Europe and beet had overtaken cane as the primary source of sugar there.

Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical South and Southeast Asia. Different species likely originated in different locations. Saccharum Barberi originated in India and Saccharum edule and Saccharum officinarum from New Guinea. Almost 70% of the sugar produced globally comes from Saccharum officinarum and hybrids of this species.

At present, Brazil and India are the world’s two largest sugar producers. For the past 40 years, these two countries have accounted for over half the world’s production of canesugar. The European Union is the third-largest sugar producer and accounts for around half the world’s production of beet sugar.

World sugar production (1,000 tonnes)


Largest producers of raw sugar as percentage of world production, 2007-12


Largest exporters of raw sugar as percentage of total exports by volume, 2007-12


Fast facts: the sugar lowdown (Source: fairtrade.org.uk)

  • Sugar is one of the most valuable agricultural commodities. In 2011 its global export trade was worth $47bn, up from $10bn in 2000.
  • Of the total $47bn, $33.5bn of sugar exports are from developing countries and $12.2bn from developed countries.
  • The sugar industry supports the livelihoods of millions of people – not only smallholders and estate workers but also those working within the wider industry and family dependents. 
  • Around 160 million tonnes of sugar are produced every year. The largest producers are Brazil (22%), India (15%) and the European Union (10%).
  • More than 123 countries produce sugar worldwide, with 70% of the world’s sugar consumed in producer countries and only 30% traded on the international market.
  • About 80% of global production comes from sugarcane (which is grown in the tropics) and 20% comes from sugar beet (grown in temperate climates, including Europe).
  • The juice from both sugarcane and sugar beet is extracted and processed into raw sugar.
  • World consumption of sugar has grown at an average annual rate of 2.7% over the past 50 years. It is driven by rising incomes and populations in developing countries. 
  • The top five consumers of sugar use 51% of the world’s sugar. They include India, the EU-27, China, Brazil and the US.
  • Brazil plays an important role in the global sugar market, as the world’s largest sugar producer, the world’s major exporter and one of the highest per capita consumers, at around 55 kg a year. 


Next → Sugar – Part 2: The Different Avatars of Sugar





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Your cutlery can influence taste of food



Ever wondered why cheese tastes saltier when eaten from a knife? Our perception of how food tastes is influenced by the size, shape and colour of the cutlery we use, a new research suggests.

Food tastes saltier when eaten from a knife, and denser and more expensive from a light plastic spoon. Taste was also affected by the colour of the cutlery, researchers said.

The crockery we use has been shown to alter our perception of food and drink. Beverages in cold coloured glasses were rated more refreshing and the weight and colour of a plate can alter how dense, salty or sweet food tastes, they said.

Researchers from the University of Oxford demo-nstrated that cutlery can also have an impact on how we experience food.

They found that when the weight of the cutlery confirms expectations, yogurt seemed denser and more expensive.

Colour contrast is also an important factor. White yoghurt when eaten from a white spoon was rated sweeter, more liked, and more expensive than pink-coloured yoghurt.

These effects were reversed for yoghurt tasted from a black spoon, which suggests that colour contrast mediates the effects of cutlery on flavour perception. Similarly, when offer-ed cheese on a knife, spoon, fork or toothpick, the cheese from a knife tasted saltiest.

“How we experience food is a multi-sensory experience involving taste, feel of the food in our mouths, aroma, and the feasting of our eyes. Even before we put food into our mouths our brains have made a judgment about it, which affects our overall experience,” researchers Vanessa Harrar and Charles Spence said.

This may be used to help control eating patterns. Also, people may be able to make better food choices if their ingrained colour associations are disrupted by less constant advertising and packaging, they said.


Re-posted from DECCAN Chroncile


Video: Is Vitamin Water a Deception?

Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj


Vitamin Water


Is Vitamin Water a Deception?

This video presents the latest episode of the popular “Food Investigations” series created by the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center and narrated by Mike Adams. It  exposes the truth behind this beverage and what Vitamin Water really contains.



See more at FoodInvestigations.com

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“Growing Food in the Desert” by Jonathan Margolis

Philipp Saumweber is creating a miracle in the barren Australian outback, growing tonnes of fresh food. So why has he fallen out with the pioneering environmentalist who invented the revolutionary system?


Philipp Saumweber CEO of Sundrop “perfect” produce
Desert blooms: Philipp Saumweber, the founder and CEO of Sundrop, with a tray of his “perfect” produce. Photograph: Jonathan Margolis for the Observer


The scrubby desert outside Port Augusta, three hours from Adelaide, is not the kind of countryside you see in Australian tourist brochures. The backdrop to an area of coal-fired power stations, lead smelting and mining, the coastal landscape is spiked with saltbush that can live on a trickle of brackish seawater seeping up through the arid soil. Poisonous king brown snakes, redback spiders, the odd kangaroo and emu are seen occasionally, flies constantly. When the local landowners who graze a few sheep here get a chance to sell some of this crummy real estate they jump at it, even for bottom dollar, because the only real natural resource in these parts is sunshine.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that a group of young brains from Europe, Asia and north America, led by a 33-year-old German former Goldman Sachs banker but inspired by a London theatre lighting engineer of 62, have bought a sizeable lump of this unpromising outback territory and built on it an experimental greenhouse which holds the seemingly realistic promise of solving the world’s food problems.

Indeed, the work that Sundrop Farms, as they call themselves, are doing in South Australia, and just starting up in Qatar, is beyond the experimental stage. They appear to have pulled off the ultimate something-from-nothing agricultural feat – using the sun to desalinate seawater for irrigation and to heat and cool greenhouses as required, and thence cheaply grow high-quality, pesticide-free vegetables year-round in commercial quantities.

So far, the company has grown tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers by the tonne, but the same, proven technology is now almost ready to be extended to magic out, as if from thin air, unlimited quantities of many more crops – and even protein foods such as fish and chicken – but still using no fresh water and close to zero fossil fuels. Salty seawater, it hardly needs explaining, is free in every way and abundant – rather too abundant these days, as our ice caps melt away.

So well has Sundrop’s 18-month project worked that investors and supermarket chains have lately been scurrying down to Port Augusta, making it hard to get a room in its few motels, or a table at the curry restaurant in the local pub. Academic agriculturalists, mainstream politicians and green activists are falling over each other to champion Sundrop. And the company’s scientists, entrepreneurs and investors are about to start building an £8m, 20-acre greenhouse – 40 times bigger than the current one – which will produce 2.8m kg of tomatoes and 1.2m kg of peppers a year for supermarkets now clamouring for an exclusive contract.

It’s an inspiring project, more important, it could be argued, than anything else going on in the world. Agriculture uses 60-80% of the planet’s scarce fresh water, so food production that uses none at all is nothing short of miraculous.

Food from the desert: parabolic mirror
Blue-sky thinking: the 75m motorised parabolic mirror follows the sun all day, using its heat to generate energy for the Sundrop greenhouses. Photograph: Hat Margolis


Blue-sky thinking: the 75m motorised parabolic mirror follows the sun all day, using its heat to generate energy for the Sundrop greenhouses. Photograph: Hat Margolis
Growing food in a desert, especially in a period of sustained drought, is a pretty counterintuitive idea and Sundrop’s horticultural breakthrough also ignores the principle that the best ideas are the simplest. Sundrop’s computerised growing system is easy to describe, but was complex to devise and trickier still to make economically viable.

A 75m line of motorised parabolic mirrors that follow the sun all day focuses its heat on a pipe containing a sealed-in supply of oil. The hot oil in turn heats nearby tanks of seawater pumped up from a few metres below ground – the shore is only 100m away. The oil brings the seawater up to 160C and steam from this drives turbines providing electricity. Some of the hot water from the process heats the greenhouse through the cold desert nights, while the rest is fed into a desalination plant that produces the 10,000 litres of fresh water a day needed to keep the plants happy. The water the grower gets is pure and ready for the perfect mix of nutrients to be added. The air in the greenhouse is kept humid and cool by trickling water over a wall of honeycombed cardboard evaporative pads through which air is driven by wind and fans. The system is hi-tech all the way; the greenhouse is in a remote spot, but the grower, a hyper-enthusiastic 27-year-old Canadian, Dave Pratt, can rather delightfully control all the growing conditions for his tonnes of crops from an iPhone app if he’s out on the town – or even home in Ontario.

It’s the kind of thing an enlightened futurologist might have imagined for the 21st century, and to enter Sundrop’s greenhouse from the desert outside, passing the array of sun-tracking solar parabolic mirrors that looks like something from a film set, is to feel you’ve arrived at a template for tomorrow-world. The warm, humid air laden with the scent of ripening tomatoes is in such contrast to the harsh landscape outside, where it tops a parched 40C for much of the year, that it feels as if the more brutal sides of both nature and economics are being benignly cheated. You can supply billions with healthy, cheap food, help save the planet and make a fortune? There has to be a catch.

Food from the desert: Charlie Paton
Green shoots: Charlie Paton in his East London home. It was his discovery that led to the use of seawater in agriculture. Photograph: Hat Margolis


There seems, however, to be only one significant person in the world who feels there is indeed a catch, and, a little bizarrely, that is the inventor of the technology, one Charlie Paton, the British lighting man mentioned earlier, who is currently to be found in his own experimental greenhouse, atop a three- storey former bakery at the London Fields end of Hackney, east London, feeling proud-ish, but not a little sour, about the way things have worked out 10,000 miles away in the desert between the Flinders mountains and the Spencer Gulf.

If you are of an ecological bent, Paton’s name may ring a bell. He is the multi-honoured founder of a veritable icon of the green world, a 21-year established family company called Seawater Greenhouse, originators of the idea of growing crops using only sunlight and seawater. Earlier this month, Paton was given the prestigious title Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts, and a few months earlier, Seawater Greenhouse won first prize in the best product category of the UK’s biggest climate-change awards scheme, Climate Week. If Sundrop Farms takes off worldwide, the charming and idealistic Charlie Paton could well be in line for a knighthood, even a Nobel Prize; the potential of his brainchild – the ability to grow infinite quantities of cheap, wholesome food in deserts – is that great.

There’s just one problem in all this. Although he and his family built the South Australia greenhouse with their own hands, Sundrop has abandoned pretty much every scrap of the ultra-simple Paton technology regarding it as “too Heath Robinson” and commercially hopeless. Some of the Patons’ home-made solar panels in wooden frames are still connected up and powering fans, but are falling apart. Nearly all the rest of their installation has been replaced with hi-tech kit which its spiritual father views with contempt. He dismisses Sundrop’s gleaming new £160,000 tracking mirrors from Germany and the thrumming Swiss desalination plant and heat-exchanging tanks as “bells and whistles” put in to impress investors. Sundrop and Seawater have parted company and Paton accuses them of abandoning sustainability in the interests of commercial greed. He is particularly distressed by the installation of a backup gas boiler to keep the crops safe if it’s cloudy for a few days.

But we will return to Charlie Paton later; sadly, perhaps, developments in the South Australian desert are now overshadowing the doubts and travails of their original inspiration. And they are quite some developments. “These guys have been bold and adventurous in having the audacity to think that they could do it,” says the head of Australia’s government-funded desalination research institute, Neil Palmer. “They are making food without risk, eliminating the problems caused not just by floods, frost, hail but by lack of water, too, which now becomes a non-issue. Plus, it stacks up economically and it’s infinitely scalable – there’s no shortage of sunshine or seawater here. It’s all very impressive.”

Food from the desert: tomatoes
On the vine … the blemish-free crop is effectively organic, but it can’t be marketed as such in Australia as it is not grown on soil. Photograph: Hat Margolis


“The sky really is now the limit,” confirms Dutch water engineer Reinier Wolterbeek, Sundrop’s project manager. “For one thing, we are all young and very ambitious. That’s how we select new team members. And having shown to tough-minded horticulturalists, economists and supermarket buyers that what we can do works and makes commercial sense, there’s now the possibility of growing protein, too, in these closed, controlled greenhouse environments. And that means feeding the world, no less.”

An unexpected bonus of the Sundrop system is that the vegetables produced, while cropping year-round and satisfying the supermarkets’ demand for blemish-free aesthetic perfection, can also be effectively organic. It can’t be called organic (in Australia at least) because it’s grown “hydroponically” – not in soil – but it is wholly pesticide-free, a selling point the Australian supermarkets are seizing on, and apparently fed only benign nutrients. Sundrop is already being sold in local greengrocers in Port Augusta as an ethically and environmentally friendly high-end brand.

Because there’s no shortage of desert in which to site it, a Sundrop greenhouse can be built in isolation from others and be less prone to roving pests. Those that sneak in can be eliminated naturally. In this closeted micro-world, Dave Pratt with his trusty iPhone app is free to play God. Not only does Dave have a flight of in-house bees to do their stuff in the greenhouse (who also live a charmed life as they enjoy a perfect, Dave- controlled climate with no predators) but he also has at his command a platoon of “beneficial insects” called Orius, or pirate bugs. These kill crop-destroying pests called thrips, and do so – weirdly in nature – not for food but for, well, fun. So unless you feel for thrips, or believe food should only be grown in God’s own soil and subject to God’s own pestilences, Sundrop produce seems to be pure and ethical enough to satisfy all but the most eco-fussy.

Sundrop’s founder and CEO, on the other hand, is not at first glance an ecowarrior poster child. True, there are plenty of posh boys dabbling in ethical and organic farming, but on paper, Philipp Saumweber could be a comedy all-purpose hate figure. He is a wealthy, Gordonstoun-educated German with a Harvard MBA, immaculate manners, an American accent, Teutonic efficiency and a career that’s taken him from hedge-fund management to Goldman Sachs to joining his family’s Munich-based agricultural investment business. But, in the typical way stereotypes can let you down, apart from being a thoroughly nice, softly spoken and clearly visionary man, Saumweber has also made a brilliant but ailing idea work, turning a charmingly British, Amstrad-like technology into the horticultural equivalent of Apple.

Soon after becoming immersed in agriculture as a business, he says, he realised that it essentially involved “turning diesel into food and adding water”. Whether you were a tree-hugger or a number cruncher, Saumweber reasoned, this was not good. “So I began to get interested in the idea of saline agriculture. Fresh water is so scarce, yet we’re almost drowning in seawater. I spent a lot of time in libraries researching it, Charlie Paton’s name kept coming up, and that’s what started things. He’d been working on the technology since 1991, was smart and although his approach was obviously home-grown and none of his pilot projects had really worked – in fact they’d all been scrapped – he had something too promising to ignore.”

Despite having given Paton a large, undisclosed ex- gratia settlement when Sundrop and Seawater divorced in February – a sum Paton still says he was very happy with – Saumweber continues to be gracious about his former business partner, and says he wishes he was still on board, as he is a better propagandist and salesman for this ultimate sustainable technology than anyone else he’s met.

“What we liked about Charlie’s idea, as did the engineers we got in to assess Seawater Greenhouse, is that it addressed the water issue doubly by proposing a greenhouse which made water in an elegant way and linked this to a system to use seawater to cool the greenhouse,” Saumweber recounts.

“What we didn’t realise at the start, and I don’t think Charlie ever adjusted to fully, was that even in arid regions, you get cold days and a greenhouse will need heating – hence the gas boiler, which cuts in to produce heat and electricity when it gets cold or cloudy, but which upset Charlie so much because it meant we weren’t 100% zero-energy any longer. What Charlie overlooked is that you can grow anything without heat and cooling, but it will be blemished and misshapen and will be rejected by the supermarkets. If you don’t match their standards, you’re not paid. It would be ideal if that weren’t the case, but we can’t take on the challenge of changing human behaviour.

“So in the end, we had very different views on where the business should go. He’d found the perfect platform to keep tinkering and experimenting, while we just wanted to get into production. He’s a very nice man and I share a lot of his eco views, but it wasn’t possible to stay together.”

When you visit the agreeable Paton family in Hackney it becomes clear the gas-boiler incident out in the desert was far from the whole reason for the fallout with Sundrop. There was also a serious clash of styles. Saumweber is a banker by training and lives in prosperous west London, while the Patons are artistic and live part of the time in a forest clearing in Sussex in a wooden house without electricity. Charlie, an amateur and a tinkerer at heart, a highly knowledgeable polymath rather than a scientist, is also a proud man, whose intense blue eyes burn when he discusses how his invention has, in his view, been debased by the ambitious young men and women who moved it on to the next level.

The difference was essentially political, an idealist/ pragmatist schism not unlike an old Labour/New Labour split. The Patons – Charlie, his wife, jeweller and art school teacher Marlene McKibbin, son Adam, 25, a design engineer and daughter Alice, 26, a fine art graduate – are a tight, highly principled bunch who gather almost every day for a family lunch, like a wholemeal and Palestinian organic olive oil version of the Ewings of Southfork Ranch.

The Seawater Greenhouse method, which they are still promoting actively, involves no desalination plant, no gleaming solar mirrors and little by way of anything electronic. Everything in the Seawater Greenhouse vision is low-tech, cheap to start up and reliant on the subtle, gentle interaction of evaporation and condensation of seawater with wind, both natural and artificial, blown by fans powered by solar panels. If things go wrong and production is disrupted by a glitch in this model, you just persuade people to eat perfectly good but odd-looking produce – or harvest less and stand firm by your sustainable principles.

Although the concept is attractive and the philosophy will chime with many a green consumer, the Seawater Greenhouse installation is less elegant. Dave Pratt, fresh to the team from growing tomatoes in Canada, almost went straight back when he saw the kit Adam and Alice Paton had painstakingly put together. “It was like a construction by the Beverly Hillbillies,” Pratt says. “They had these 15,000 hand-made plastic pipes meant to work as heat exchangers, but they just dripped seawater on the plants, which was disastrous.”

Paton’s perspective on things is, naturally, a little different. “I did have a falling-out with Philipp,” he says. “It was a joint venture, but we disagreed on a number of things. Being a cautious investor, he called in consultants and horticulturalists, and one said if you don’t put in a gas boiler you’re going to lose money and get poor produce. I was persuaded about the need for some heating, but it could have been supplied by solar panels. It wasn’t such a big deal, perhaps, but it was a syndrome that ran through everything we did. Philipp is the king of the spreadsheet, and trying to make the numbers go black meant he just rushed everything. I’m all for the thing being profitable, but there are levels of greed I found a bit, well, not quite right. I wish him well, though, and if it’s fabulously successful, then fine.”

What next for the Patons, then? “Well, the settlement we got was enough to carry on fiddling about for some time. We’re excited about getting a new project going in Cape Verde [the island republic in the mid-Atlantic], where they produce no food at all and they seem interested. And we have talked about a project in Somaliland [the unofficial breakaway part of Somalia], but that would be difficult as there’s not even a hotel to stay in.”

Charlie Paton, although the acknowledged founder of the idea of growing unlimited food in impossible conditions, seems almost destined to join a British tradition of hobbyist geniuses who change the world working from garden sheds and workshops, but, because they aren’t commercial, and perhaps rather eschew professionalism, miss out on the final mile and the big payday.

“We will absolutely keep on at this in our own way,” he says, “but I don’t really feel that proprietary about it. The heart of the technology is actually a bit of soggy cardboard. You can’t patent or protect the idea of evaporative cooling. The idea of using seawater to do that absolutely was a major breakthrough, but again, you can’t patent it. The main thing is that it’s us that’s still picking up the plaudits, and I think that makes Philipp really angry.”

Reproduced from The Observer, Saturday 24 November 2012

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Is Japan’s Nuke Meat Going Global? Time to Become a Veggie.

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj


US campaign to diminish the seriousness of the accident at Fukushima continues, allowing the beef from Fukushima province to be imported and sold in US restaurants. US citizens should demand this be stopped, and start asking where their food is coming from. – Dr Helen Caldicott

Radiation in Japanese Cattle

On Sunday, October 14, cattle farmers in Fukushima Prefecture celebrated with a ceremony the shipment of three cattle to the United States.

In 2010 after an outburst of foot-and-mouth disease in southern Japan the US stopped exporting beef from Japan. Now, the suspension removed in August, Japan has resumed the export of beef to the US for the first time in two and half years.

The livestock farmers in Japan believe that the resumption of exports would possibly help remove anxieties about radioactive contamination. The headman of a local agricultural cooperative stated the resumption is a blessing for Fukushima farmers who have recently been struggling with the consequences of the nuclear accident.

Cattle in Fukushima go through radiation checks before shipment. After processing, the Japanese beef would be offered to premier restaurants, food services and fast food outlets in the US.


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