The Hindu Editorial Summary

Topic-1 : Liquid Nitrogen in Food: Safety Concerns in Tamil Nadu

GS-2 Mains Exam  : Health

Revision Notes

Question : Discuss the rationale behind Tamil Nadu’s decision to restrict liquid nitrogen use in food to packaged items only. How does this address the safety concerns compared to direct consumption?

Context: Tamil Nadu’s Food Safety Department restricts liquid nitrogen use in food to packaged items only.

Liquid Nitrogen Facts:

  • Produced by fractional distillation of liquid air.
  • Chemical formula: N2 (two nitrogen atoms covalently bonded).
  • Boiling point: -195.8°C (-320.4°F) at normal pressure.
  • Liquid-to-gas expansion ratio: 1:694 (rapidly expands to gas).
  • Properties:
    • Non-toxic, odorless, colorless, inert, non-flammable.
    • Slightly lighter than air (as gas), slightly soluble in water.
  • Storage: Special insulated containers with vents to prevent pressure buildup.
  • Leidenfrost effect: Rapid boiling creates an insulating gas layer, causing spilled droplets to skitter.

Safety Precautions (Essential when handling liquid nitrogen):

  1. Extreme Cold:
    • Can cause severe frostbite on contact.
    • Wear proper safety gear (cover and insulate skin) to prevent contact/inhalation of very cold vapor.
  2. Ingestion Hazard: Lethal if swallowed.
    • Rapid expansion from liquid to gas ruptures the gastrointestinal tract.
  3. Pressure Buildup:
    • Do not enclose in sealed containers – risk of bursting or explosion.
    • Rapid boiling creates pressure.
  4. Asphyxiation Risk:
    • Reduces oxygen levels in enclosed spaces.
    • Cold nitrogen gas is denser than air, posing a greater risk near the ground.
    • Use in well-ventilated areas.
  5. Oxidation Risk:
    • Containers can accumulate condensed oxygen from air.
    • Nitrogen evaporation increases risk of violent oxidation of organic matter.

Liquid Nitrogen: Uses and Regulations

Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) Uses:

  • Low temperature & low reactivity: Enables various applications.
  • Examples:
    • Freezing & transporting food
    • Cryopreservation (sperm, eggs, genetic samples)
    • Coolant for scientific equipment (superconductors, vacuum pumps)
    • Cryotherapy (removing skin abnormalities)
    • Shielding materials from oxygen
    • Quick-freezing water pipes (for repairs)
    • Source of dry nitrogen gas
    • Cattle branding
    • Molecular gastronomy (special food/beverage prep.)
    • Material cooling (machining, fracturing)

Government & LN2 Misuse:

  • Food Safety Concerns: Bans on using LN2 in food prep (except storage).
  • Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 (FSS Act):
    • Empowers action against misuse of LN2 in food consumption.
    • Consolidates food safety regulations across departments.

Safer Alternatives:

  • Mechanical Refrigeration: Safe cooling without chemical risks.
  • Cryogenic Freezing with CO2: Less risk of asphyxiation compared to LN2.



The Hindu Editorial Summary

Topic-2 : Indian Spices Facing Heat 

GS-2 Mains Exam  : Health

Revision Notes

Question : Critically analyze the major challenges hindering food safety in India, highlighting the specific issues faced by small and medium-sized businesses

Issue: Spice mixes from MDH and Everest (Indian brands) under investigation in at least 5 countries (including Singapore, Hong Kong, and US) for exceeding permissible limits of Ethylene Oxide (EtO).

  • EtO Concerns:
    • Colorless, flammable gas used for sterilization (medical devices) and pest control.
    • Used in food processing to extend shelf life (improper use leaves residues).
    • Residues can form toxic and carcinogenic compounds (e.g., ethylene glycol linked to cough syrup deaths).
    • Long-term exposure linked to cancers like lymphoma and leukemia.
  • India’s Response (as of April 30, 2024):
    • Spice Board:
      • Mandatory testing for shipments to Singapore and Hong Kong.
      • Gathering technical data from food agencies.
      • Proposing corrective measures to exporters.
      • Inspections to ensure adherence to standards.
      • Issued guidelines for EtO prevention (testing, storage, alternative methods). (Similar advisory in Sept 2021)
    • FSSAI: Directed state regulators to test major spice brands (including MDH & Everest) for EtO.

Food safety challenges in India:

  • Diverse food landscape, lack of record-keeping and intentional food fraud.
  • Traceability is difficult for small and medium sized businesses.
  • At least 10 States/Union Territories lack required food testing labs.
  • Food safety officers are insufficient.
  • FSSAI’s operations often lack transparency.
  • $700 million worth of exports are at stake due to food safety issues.


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