Waste not want not: Why more needs to be done to maximise the functional food potential of by-products

By Gary Scattergood and Millette Burgos

- Last updated on GMT

Isolated soy proteins are useful functional ingredients. ©iStock
Isolated soy proteins are useful functional ingredients. ©iStock

Related tags Nutrition

The functional food and nutraceutical opportunities offered by agricultural waste products in developing countries are not being fully exploited, meaning vital nutrients that could be of immense health and economic benefit are going to waste.

Disposal of solid waste generated from food and agricultural activity is a serious problem for developing countries.

The waste is frequently prone to microbial spoilage, and the cost of drying, storage, and shipment of waste by-products is prohibitive. There are also legal restrictions surrounding agro-waste disposal.

However, a new paper from academics at Universiti Putra Malaysia reveals a growing interest in maximising the use of agricultural by-products by converting them into functional food ingredients – although considerable work is needed to maximise the potential.

“There is a need to take further actions on exploring the inner potential of agro-waste to stand out as food ingredient to partially or fully substitute the foods in [the] orthodox list.

“Some of the agro-waste contains the most valuable nutrients in the plant and it is truly a “waste” to dispose any of them,”​ they wrote in a review published in the journal Trends in Food Science and Technology.

ISP and rice bran

They point to a number of examples where by-products have gone on to make a meaningful contribution to functional nutrition, such as isolated soy proteins (ISP), which contains all of the essential amino acids required by the human body and is now an important ingredient in infant formulas, breakfast cereals and protein drinks.

Likewise, rice bran, a by-product of the rice milling process which is turned into rice bran oil boasts anti-allergic, anti-cholesterol, and anti-diabetic properties.

Other examples include fruit and vegetable by-products, palm fibres and coffee husks.

However, the researchers noted: Agro-industrial wastes are often under-utilized and pose a major disposal problem to the concerned parties.”

They acknowledge that such an approach would throw up food safety considerations that would have to be thoroughly investigated, but said the economic and environmental case for using by-products to fortify foods, as nutraceutical ingredients, or to eventually replace conventional foodstuffs, was compelling.

“These industries eventually generate incomes and created job opportunity to the residents. Therefore, there is a need to explore further their potential to be incorporated into different food products or employ different methods of modification for new sources of agro-waste.

“The application of agro-wastes and its by-product as a raw material is of practical significance for developing material components as substitutes for traditional food materials and are consumer friendly,” ​they concluded.

 

Source: Trends in Food Science and Technology

DOI: 10.1016/j.tifs.2016.11.014

“A review: Modified agricultural by-products for the development and fortification of food products and nutraceuticals”

Authors: Wee Ting Lai, Nicholas M.H. Kong et al

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