Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

India scientists hail 'multi-purpose' chillis

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

File photos of protests in Indian-administered Kashmir
Scientists say the chilli can be used to control unruly crowds

Scientists in India say their chilli stun grenade for fighting terrorists could be adapted for other purposes.

They say that "civilian variants" include the use of chillis for crowd control and chilli-based aerosol sprays as a "safety device" for women.

But the scientists say that the main aim of their work with chillis will still be to neutralise terrorists and insurgents.

Bhut jolokia chillis are said to be 1,000 times hotter than other chillis.

Non-toxic grenade

Scientists say that awesome power can be used for numerous purposes.

Indian scientists say the chillis will immobilise but not kill people

In addition to being used for controlling mobs - in a similar way to pepper spray - and protecting women, bhut jolokia chillis can be used as a food additive for troops operating in cold conditions.

They have also been used on fences around army barracks in the hope that the strong smell will keep out animals.

But scientists say the chilli's primary purpose will be as a stun grenade against suspected insurgents.

"It will immobilise them but not kill them," said RB Srivastava of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) .

He said the non-toxic grenade would be developed from the thumb-sized bhut jolokia that is grown in the north-eastern state of Assam and recognised by Guinness World Records as the world's hottest chilli.

Admirers of the chilli say that adding a tiny fraction of it helps improve the taste of curries.

One bhut jolokia packs more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measure for a chilli's spiciness.

That is 10 to 15 times more than any other chilli variety in the world.

'Burn like hell'

Classic Tabasco sauce and Jalapeno peppers measure anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville units.

The preliminary trials for the "chilli grenade" were described by defence scientists as "successful".

"Now we are perfecting the design and once that happens, we will start production," said Mr Srivastava.

"Its pungent smell will force the target victim to throw up and the eyes will burn like hell, but all without any long-term damage."

But not everyone is convinced about its pungency.

Last year, a young Assamese mother set a record by munching 51 bhut jolokias in two minutes.

Anandita Dutta Tamuly performed the bizarre feat before hundreds of people at the tea-growing northern Assam town of Jorhat.

But experts say that she is part of a small minority of people for whom the chilli may not work.

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Mail Online UK Curry bomb! Indian army chiefs reveal latest weapon in war on terror: the world's hottest chili - 29 hrs ago
Sky News Army Uses Hottest Chilli As A Weapon - 37 hrs ago
Sydney Morning Herald World's hottest chilli: the new weapon against terrorism - 45 hrs ago
Telegraph Secret weapon: the chilli bomb - 49 hrs ago India deploys world's hottest chilli to fight terrorism - 52 hrs ago

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