Going ahead with its plans to provide safe and hygienic food to train passengers, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) signed an agreement with the government-owned Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL), here on Monday for transfer of technology in the field of food and beverage processing and packaging that would upgrade its catering operations.
Under the agreement, DFRL, a Defence Ministry establishment working under Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), will transfer the technical knowhow and testing for quality assurance to IRCTC’s ready-to-eat packaged food for the rail travellers.
The Licensing Agreement for Transfer of Technology (ToT) was initialed by IRCTC Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) Dr A K Manocha and DFRL Director Dr Rakesh Kumar Sharma.
“IRCTC has been taking several new initiatives to upgrade, professionalise and standardise its catering services on Indian Railways. The MoU will go a long way in providing quality and hygienic ready-to-eat packaged food to train travellers,” Dr Manocha said.
DRDO are the pioneers in India of the unique technology of food processing in ‘Retort” amenable special kind of flexible polymeric films to achieve commercial sterility. These products can be eaten straight out of the packs or can be warmed up by dipping the pack in hot water or keeping in hot air oven before being consumed. Such foods have better acceptability as compared to their canned counterparts. Human interface and thus possible contamination is minimized by using such technology.
“Apart from conducting some sample surveys and feedback on IRCTC managed trains, the launch for commercial sale is also on the anvil,” Dr Manocha said, adding “The launch of ready-to-eat items will offer variety and hygienic food which will eventually reduce complaints from the travelling passengers.”
He added, “This will help IRCTC to provide safe, unadulterated, nutritious and hygienic food to the railway passengers. It has been our constant efforts to provide quality and hygienic food to rail passengers. The agreement is a step in this direction.”
Food items will be available in 150-300 gm packets whose shelf life is six months. The meals will be on offer on a discounted price of the MRP in the initial phase, to test the response of the passengers.
DFRL has a proven track record in developing shelf-stable technologies under varying climatic conditions for India’s armed forces and also for the country’s varied palate tastes. Also, these are fully indigenously-developed technologies.
Besides the launch of RTE food, IRCTC is in talks with Mysuru-based Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) for its assistance in food processing, packaging technology, training, menu planning and quality control.
The trial for preparation of Ready to Eat (RTE) food with the assistance of DFRL technology has commenced and the rollout of 36,000 RTE packs of vegetable biryani, rajma-chawal, jeera rice, tamrind rice, lemon rice, wheat upma, dal rice and chicken biryani is planned in the first week of July. Convenience, ease of carrying and easy disposal of packets after use are the special features that can appeal to the consumers.