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Japanese Researchers Extract Vanilla From Cow Dung
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Mar 06, 2006

Japanese researchers have succeeded in making the sweet smell of vanilla come out of the last thing people could imagine -- cow dung. In a world-first recycling project, a one-hour heating and pressuring process allows cow feces to produce vanillin, the main component of the vanilla-bean extract, according to researcher Mayu Yamamoto.

The vanillin extracted from the feces could be used in products such as shampoo and aromatic candles but not in food, said Yamamoto, who works for the Research Institute of the state-run International Medical Center of Japan.

Compared with usual vanilla, "this component is exactly the same but it would be difficult for people to accept it in food, given the recent rules of disclosing the origins of ingredients," she said. The production cost using dung is less than a half of making vanillin out of vanilla beans, she added.

The feces of grass-eating animals is abundant with lignin, the chemical compound that exists in plants and trees and is used to produce vanilla aroma, Yamamoto said. "Lignin is difficult to decompose," she said. "Farmers are troubled by how to dispose properly of animal excrement. We tried to solve this from a recycling viewpoint," she said.

After taking the vanillin, the processed feces could be returned to the soil, she said. The research has been done in cooperation with major Japanese chemicals firm Sekisui Chemical. The research team aims to develop a machine to handle several tons of feces a day and put it in practical use in two-to-three years.

Source: Agence France-Presse
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