FIIRO, inteRNAS, LASU develop local capacities for sweeteners

The Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) has partnered the International Conference on Alternative Sweeteners (inteRNAS), Lagos State University (LASU) and others to develop simple process technologies for commercial extraction and optimisation of high-grade Thaumatin and Miraculin, a low calorie sweetener and flavour modifier.

Gloria Elemo, director-general, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), said this move was apt considering that global high intensity sweetener in both natural and synthetic market was estimated to be close to $1.3 billion in 2008 and would quadruple by 2021.

Elemo, who stated this at the opening ceremony of the ‘International Conference on Alternative Sweeteners’ tagged ‘Harnessing of the Economic Potential of Thaumatin (Thaumatococcus danielli) in Africa’, pointed out that attention was shifting to sourcing of alternative sweeteners, mainly non-nutritive phyto chemicals, from plants in order to close the gap between the production/ consumption of sweeteners and sweetening/ flavor enhancers.

According to her, there was an increasing large segment of the population with special dietary requirements containing non-nutritive sugar, such as the diabetic patients, pointing out that over the past few decades non-nutritive sweeteners had been gaining significance and were expected to develop into a major source of high potency sweetener for the growing natural food and pharmaceutical markets.

She added that in Nigeria, there was a huge gap between sugar production and consumption, saying this represented a serious problem since an estimated amount and quantity of 2.5 million tonnes would be imported to meet local demand.

She said almost all the commercially available sweeteners for industrial and domestic use in Nigeria were imported, stressing that the commercial sweeteners sugar, saccharin, acesulfame K, cyclamates and the like, aside from non-availability and high cost, all had their attendant negative health implications.

“On the account of this, FIIRO as an organisation has over a long period of time been involved in herbal programmes and project for sweeteners, medicines, spices, condiments, nutraceuticals, foods and functional foods. FIIRO also has well-established medicinal aromatic and pesticidal plants research laboratories for research and development activities,” she said.

Also speaking at the event, Muhammed Musa, a director at the Raw Materials Research Development Council (RMRDC), said the council had a scheme called ‘Strategic Projects’ targeted at developing the nation through industrial technology, pointing out that thaumatin was a focal point of the scheme.

He stressed the need to have plantations to domesticate the plant, adding that the council had also put in place different initiatives for processing the plant for commercialisation.

The keynote speaker, Bidemi Kappo, a professor in the University of Zuzuland, South Africa, said, “It is my hope that from the experience I bring from South Africa, we can come up with a product that we can take to the market, which can actually ameliorate metabolic diseases in Nigeria and Africa at large.”


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