The professor emeritus in the University of Toronto’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry joined the Order of Canada at a July 4th ceremony held at Governor General Julie Payette’s second official residence in Quebec City. The honour recognized Diosady’s extensive career as a food engineer, which has profoundly benefited the lives of millions of people around the world.
He is a member of the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering and the 2019 winner of the R.S. Jane Memorial Award, CSChE’s premier distinction. As part of this award, Diosady will speak at the 69th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference, which takes place October 20-23 in Halifax, where he will describe the microencapsulation technique he and his colleagues developed to incorporate reactive agents such as iron into common foods, such as salt and tea.
For more than 15 years Diosady’s research group has worked with Nutrition International, a Canadian not-for-profit organization that addresses general vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the diets of developing country populations. His team overcame the chemical challenge of adding iron to salt, which has long been fortified with iodine to prevent thyroid problems.
Iron, which is vital to preventing the blood disorder anemia, reacts with iodine, but this work encapsulated iron particles in vegetable fat that was compatible with iodine but allowed the metal to be absorbed into the body. The iron would also resemble other salt grains, as opposed to dark particles that might cause a consumer to assume this was a form of contamination.
Through the Canadian International Development Agency, this form of salt was introduced into lunches provided to millions of school children in India. Meanwhile, Diosady and his colleagues are continuing to investigate the application of this encapsulation strategy to fortify salt with other micronutrients, including zinc and vitamins A and B12.
This approach yielded similar success by adding iron to tea, another chemical challenge because of the way the metal interacts with tannins. The work began in 2013, when Diosady became the only Canadian to be awarded a $250,000 grant through a major international competition, “Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development”.
He has also examined a process that extracts proteins from canola oil, so that they can be added to a neutral powder containing essential amino acids. This product could be dissolved to provide a healthy soft drink in places where water is not necessarily safe for consumption.