By Kuah Guan Oo
Pic by Marina Ismail
SERDANG, 14 Aug (UPM) – Brainstorming, research and more brainstorming – that was the secret recipe used by a group of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) students to cook their way to their 2nd successive victory at the International Food Technology competition in Chicago last month.
Post-graduate students Sew Chang Chew, Tan Tai Boon, Mohd Asraf Mohd Zainudin, Kuan Chee Hao and Najla Gooda Sahib could not be more ecstatic with their victory because the competition had tested them on what they had learnt at UPM’s Faculty of Food Science and Technology.
It had also recognised them as the top food science and technology students in the world for the 2nd consecutive time. They had won the first prize in the same contest in Las Vegas last year, organised by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in conjunction with its annual meeting and exhibition.
The poser for these five UPM students in the international category of the “Developing Solutions for Developing Countries” contest was to prepare a meal to supplement the diet of HIV patients.
Their creation beat those proposed by two other teams from Indonesia in the final round in Chicago where the IFT held their annual meeting and exhibition from 13-16 July, 2013, attended by major food industry players from all over the world.
With the win, they took home the top prize of US$3,000 along with the trophy and title.
Their victory also earned them a congratulatory tweet by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on 28 July 2013 after the news was splashed by the local media.
Under the IFT rules, participating teams were invited to submit their detailed proposals for the North America and international category of the competition, and the UPM team was among the three shortlisted for the final round in Chicago.
Team leader Sew, 26, said the challenge led them to do their research to know how HIV patients live, what they lack or need.
“That was when we found out that they suffer frequently from sore throat and mouth ulcers, and they would prefer liquid food,” said the youth from Bidor who expects to complete his Master’s this year. He had obtained his Bachelor in Food Science and Technology from UPM.
Given that physical problem, they then chose to make their food product in powder form in sachets, so that the HIV sufferers need only to add hot water to stir up a thick soup or porridge.
They called their food supplement “EnerTEIN”.
Mohd Asraf, 27, of Ipoh who expects to complete his Master’s by the next semester, said each of them proposed an ingredient and that was how they came up with fish, potatoes, seaweed, thickening agent , salt and anti-caking agent for the food supplement.
Tan Tai Boon, 25, of Johore Baharu who is the only one in the team to be pursuing his PhD in Food Technology, said they chose “ikan kerisi” because the fish is under-utilised and cheap in the region.
In the case of potatoes, it is also abundant and cheap in the region.
The seaweed and the other ingredients are for taste and preparation of the food in powder form.
Sew said concept-wise, they started with the idea of a porridge and the other ingredients were added with an eye for food value and costs of production.
All in all, each packet of EnerTEIN costs about RM2 (0.67 US cents) including a profit margin, said Sew.
Kuan, 26, of Klang who also expects to complete his Master’s this year, said the content of EnerTEIN would meet the additional nourishment requirement of a HIV patient, that is, an extra 300 kilo-calories for a male HIV patient.
Najla, 28, of Mauritius who is currently reading her PhD at the faculty after her first two degrees with UPM, attributed their success in Chicago to good team work.
“ We also have a strong background in food science and research and also all of us on the team are very active in extracurricular activities. So this allows us to have better perspective than students who are only academically oriented,” said Najla, who had missed the trip because she went home to Mauritius to web her beau, a medical doctor.
Their supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Dr Noranizan Mohd Adzahan who is the deputy dean of the faculty, said she was happy and proud of the students who had worked very hard for the competition.
“I noticed that they were more confident of themselves this year and that they mixed very well with the participants in Chicago who seemed to know UPM and our students.
“From the previous competition, they probably know that we are strong in product development , at both the under-graduate and post-graduate level,” she said.
She said the IFT annual conference was always attended by all the big names in the world’s food industry who were the sponsors of the competitions.
The IFT has always highlighted the importance of students as the future leaders in the food industry.
Her students, she said, were meticulous in preparing their EnerTEIN that included a sensory or food-tasting evaluation that was in their 19-page proposal.
“The product is cheap and affordable for HIV carriers,” she said, adding that the students’ trip to Chicago was sponsored by UPM, IFT and the Malaysian chapter of IFT.
She also said that the first UPM team that won in IFT Las Vegas last year consisted of six members and four of them were in this year’s team of five members. – UPM
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