Friday, 9 November 2012

Forty years after its ban, experts in food poisoning are collecting vital scientific data to find out if Kesar dal is dangerous to human health and if so, how to reduce its toxicity

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 8: Forty years after its ban, experts in food poisoning
are collecting vital scientific data to find out if Kesar dal is
dangerous to human health and if so, how to reduce its toxicity. The
research is important from economic and nutrition perspective as Kesar
dal costs just Rs 20 a kg and contains high content of important
nutrients.

Research studies so far have not found a strong link between
consumption of Kesar dal and health hazards. Biomedical scientists,
toxicologists, clinicians and food and feed technologists on Thursday
converged at the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) here to
exchange the scientific data and formulate strategies in developing
technologies to make better use of Kesar dal.

The NIN is the nodal agency on Kesar dal research. The experts feel
that there is an ample scope to turn Kesar dal into a highly useful
food crop using detoxification methods and genetic modifications.
Kesar dal is linked to a crippling health condition called Lathyrism,
but there is no conclusive evidence.

Kesar dal, though used for thousands of years, was declared unfit for
human consumption due to its alleged toxicity, and banned in many
States including Andhra Pradesh. West Bengal and Chattisgarh have not
banned it, while Kesar dal continues to be sown legally in Maharashtra
following a court stay.

Dr GS Toteja, director, Desert Medicine Research Centre, Jodhpur, said
production of pulses in India was 17 million tonnes as against the
demand of 21 million tonnes. Kesar dal, if promoted, would fill the
gap. “The Indian Council of Medical Research is currently collecting
data to clinically link consumption of Kesar dal to health problems.
New evidence is emerging in favour of Kesar dal, but the final report
is still awaited,” he said.

“Presently, there is a radical shift in the perception of the
scientific community about Kesar dal, in unraveling its beneficial
effects, as there is ample scope to turn it in to a highly useful food
crop. It can be used as a highly beneficial food supplement and even
its cost effectiveness can be a great boon to millions of starving
people all over the world,” said Dr Arjun L Khandare, senior
scientist, NIN.

Kesar dal grows even in the severest of drought conditions and gives
high yields. Kesar dal has been a major adulterant in tur dal. Kesar
dal, technically known as Lathyrus sativus, contains a chemical called
alpha-ODAP. It was banned in early 1970s after certain studies linked
Kesar dal to ill health.

Dr Kalpagam Polasa, director in charge, NIN, and Dr IV Rao,
vice-chancellor of NTR University of Health Sciences, participated in
the international conference.

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