5 methods to ensure it is protected for consuming

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A typical west African menu is just not full and not using a fermented meals or drink. These are meals which have been reworked by pure processes involving “pleasant” microorganisms like micro organism or yeast. The microorganisms break down the sugars and different substances within the meals, which adjustments the style and texture, and generally even preserves the meals.

Some examples of fermented meals from the area are these produced from African locust beans, resembling iru (Nigeria), dawadawa (Ghana), netetu (Senegal) and afitin (Benin). Different merchandise embrace okpehe (Nigeria), soydawadawa (Ghana), ogiri (east Nigeria), and Burkina Faso’s bikalga and soumbala.

Fermented meals are wealthy in protein, dietary fibre, and important minerals resembling iron, calcium, and potassium. Though many of those meals are used as condiments, additionally they function low-cost meat substitutes resulting from their excessive protein content material and style.

The alkalinity of those fermented meals helps protect them, as a result of microorganisms (which trigger meals to spoil) don’t develop so simply in alkaline substances.

Nevertheless, there are security considerations with a few of these meals. Dangers can come up in the best way they’re ready and the standard of the fermentation course of.

As a microbiologist, I’ve studied west African alkaline fermented meals and highlighted some questions of safety they current. I’ve additionally prompt methods to make these meals safer.

Meals security dangers

Iru (African locust beans) and different legume-based merchandise present important amino acids and are a wealthy supply of protein and fibre. Dawadawa comprises antioxidants that assist defend cells from oxidative harm (cell harm brought on by stress).

However one security concern is the contamination danger from mycotoxins and micro organism associated to poor hygiene. Mycotoxins are poisonous substances produced by sure moulds that may contaminate crops throughout progress, harvest, storage or processing.

Mycotoxins are able to inflicting illnesses and even dying in people and different animals. The adversarial well being results of mycotoxins vary from acute poisoning to long-term results resembling immune deficiency and most cancers. Heavy publicity to aflatoxin, a sort of mycotoxin, causes liver harm, jaundice, haemorrhage and oedema. Decrease publicity to aflatoxin over a very long time might trigger immunosuppression and most cancers.

Unregulated conventional practices, which can contain unhygienic utensils and dealing with, can pose a menace to meals security by introducing micro organism that may survive alkaline circumstances.

Learn extra:
How does meals get contaminated? The unsafe habits that kill greater than 400,000 folks a yr

Additionally, fermented meals merchandise typically use salt as a preservative. Consuming an excessive amount of salt might adversely have an effect on well being and worsen circumstances like cardiovascular illnesses and stroke.

So, to minimise the security dangers of fermented meals, you will need to scale back the quantity of salt and to retailer meals correctly. Examine grains and seeds, and discard any that look mouldy, discoloured, or shrivelled. Keep away from harm to grains earlier than and through drying, and in storage.

Meals security requires motion and cooperation in 5 areas: agriculture, meals know-how, diet, microbiology, and laws.

5 approaches to safer fermented meals


The standard and security of fermented meals lies within the high quality of the “substrate” it’s produced from, resembling legumes. Beginning a fermentation course of with low high quality substrates creates a excessive danger of introducing probably pathogenic micro organism and fungi, or toxins produced by them. Seeds and different agricultural produce used have to be of top of the range and authorized protected for human consumption.

Meals know-how

Protected alkaline fermentation requires cautious management of manufacturing circumstances. Insufficient fermentation time and sub-optimal temperature might not produce the enzymes that kill pathogens and stop toxins.


Usually, little or no analysis has been executed on the dietary composition of fermented merchandise. There’s a want for extra knowledge on this. Research ought to discover what influences the dietary content material of the merchandise, resembling soil traits, local weather and the state of maturity at harvest. Information must be collected and analysed all through the method, from the farm to processing and consumption phases. A sturdy measure of nutrient composition would assist to formulate suggestions on day by day intakes.


The security of the actual strains of organisms utilized in fermentation wants extra investigation. Molecular and genomics instruments might be used to determine the enzyme producing species and strains in these fermented meals.


Meals laws, insurance policies and monitoring are wanted in west African nations to beat native challenges. Amongst numerous interventions, meals handlers must be educated by meals security our bodies on important microbiology, hygiene and sanitation because it considerations their merchandise. Monitoring of compliance throughout manufacturing, packaging and storage available in the market is important.

The culinary traditions of west Africa provide a treasure trove of flavours and experiences. Alkaline fermented meals, with their distinctive tastes, textures and aromas, additionally provide potential well being advantages. With high-quality substrates, acceptable starter cultures, the fitting hygiene practices, optimum pH and temperature in manufacturing, and correct storage and packaging, customers can benefit from the area’s fermented delicacies with confidence.


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