CHENNAI: ‘Ready to eat’ outlets inaugurated on Thursday will sell food, good for consumption for one year from the date of manufacture, at Central station at affordable prices. According to senior IRCTC officials, this is being done jointly with Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) that prepares food and provides to IRCTC. “DFRL has a long history of providing the Indian Army with ‘retort-packaged’ food that is a process devised in the US. We have initially procured 36,000 packets of food from DFRL, and they are being sold at discounts for the first two days after inauguration. If passengers like the food, we will go ahead and procure more packets,” said a senior IRCTC official.
The process of preparing food good for consumption for over a year involves preparing food without added preservatives at temperatures as high as 140 degrees Celcius, after which it is packed in special pouches called retort-pouches. “Once the food is packaged and subject to such a high temperature, food won’t be affected by microbes. It can be kept for a year without additional storage facilities and temperature control. But our packages will be marked safe for consumption for six months from manufacture,” the official said.
“Well-packaged items like chicken biriyani, vegetable biriyani, rajma chawal, and Tamil specialties like tamarind rice, sambhar rice and lemon rice will be available in 200g or 300g packages,” said a railway official at Chennai Central. “I was surprised to find food like sambhar rice that is my favorite, available in a package, good for consumption for a couple of more months. It is quite affordable and an easy way of having meals,” said a rail commuter C.L. Ramakrishnan. As part of its future plans, IRCTC plans to purchase equipment and machines to prepare retort-packaged food based on demand from consumers.