Fermented food: 5 techniques to make sure it is protected for having

A normal west African menu is not comprehensive with out a fermented food or consume. These are food items that have been transformed by organic procedures involving “pleasant” microorganisms like micro organism or yeast. The microorganisms split down the sugars and other substances in the food, which changes the taste and texture and in some cases even preserves the foodstuff.

Some examples of fermented foods from the region are those people designed from African locust beans, such as iru (Nigeria), dawadawa (Ghana), netetu (Senegal) and afitin (Benin). Other goods include okpehe (Nigeria), soydawadawa (Ghana), ogiri (east Nigeria) and Burkina Faso’s bikalga and soumbala.

Fermented meals are prosperous in protein, nutritional fiber and crucial minerals these types of as iron, calcium and potassium. Whilst several of these foods are employed as condiments, they also serve as small-price meat substitutes owing to their substantial protein content and taste.

The alkalinity of these fermented foodstuff helps maintain them, because microorganisms (which trigger food stuff to spoil) you should not expand so easily in alkaline substances.

Nonetheless, there are security issues with some of these foods. Threats can crop up in the way they are organized and the top quality of the fermentation course of action.

As a microbiologist, I’ve studied west African alkaline fermented foods and highlighted some safety troubles they existing. I have also prompt methods to make these food items safer.


Foodstuff security dangers

Iru (African locust beans) and other legume-based goods deliver important amino acids and are a abundant resource of protein and fibre. Dawadawa contains antioxidants that enable safeguard cells from oxidative injury (mobile damage prompted by worry).

But 1 basic safety worry is the contamination hazard from mycotoxins and  micro organism associated to bad hygiene.  Mycotoxins are poisonous substances created by sure moulds that can contaminate crops during progress, harvest, storage or processing.

Mycotoxins are capable of leading to disorders or even death in human beings and other animals. The adverse well being consequences of mycotoxins assortment from acute poisoning to very long-time period outcomes this sort of as immune deficiency and most cancers. Major publicity to aflatoxin, a kind of mycotoxin, triggers liver injury, jaundice, hemorrhage and edema. Reduced exposure to aflatoxin more than a prolonged time could lead to immunosuppression and most cancers.

Unregulated classic procedures, which may possibly require unhygienic utensils and dealing with, can pose a risk to foods security by introducing microorganisms that can survive alkaline problems.

Also, fermented foodstuff products frequently use salt as a preservative. Consuming way too considerably salt may possibly adversely have an affect on health and worsen situations like cardiovascular conditions and stroke.  

So, to lower the safety dangers of fermented food items,  it is vital to lessen the total of salt and to shop meals correctly. Examine grains and seeds and discard any that glimpse moldy, discolored or shriveled. Steer clear of destruction to grains right before and throughout drying and in storage.

Food basic safety demands action and cooperation in five locations: agriculture, foods technology, diet, microbiology and regulations.


5 techniques to safer fermented meals


The quality and security of fermented food items lies in the high quality of the “substrate” it is really manufactured from, this kind of as legumes. Starting up a fermentation system with reduced top quality substrates generates a large chance of introducing probably pathogenic microorganisms and fungi or toxic compounds produced by them.  Seeds and other agricultural produce applied must be of large high-quality and accredited harmless for human usage.

Meals know-how

Protected alkaline fermentation requires watchful manage of generation circumstances. Inadequate fermentation time and sub-exceptional temperature may well not deliver the enzymes that eliminate pathogens and protect against poisons.  


Typically, incredibly little exploration has been done on the dietary composition of fermented goods. There’s a  need for additional facts on this.  Studies need to investigate what influences the nutritional information of the merchandise, these types of as soil features, climate  and the condition of maturity at harvest. Information must be collected and analyzed through the procedure, from the farm to processing and usage stages. A strong evaluate of nutrient composition would enable to formulate tips on each day intakes.


The safety of the certain strains of organisms employed in fermentation requires more investigation. Molecular and genomics equipment could be used to determine the enzyme manufacturing species and strains in these fermented food items.  


Food laws, guidelines and checking are desired in west African nations to triumph over nearby worries.  Among numerous interventions, meals handlers need to be educated by foods protection bodies on important microbiology, cleanliness and sanitation as it concerns their products. Checking of compliance throughout output, packaging and storage in the market is essential.

The culinary traditions of west Africa supply a treasure trove of flavors and ordeals. Alkaline fermented food items, with their exclusive preferences, textures and aromas, also supply potential well being rewards. With large-top quality substrates, ideal starter cultures, the proper cleanliness practices, optimal pH and temperature in creation and appropriate storage and packaging, customers can get pleasure from the region’s fermented delicacies with assurance.

Omololu Fagunwa, Research Fellow, Queen’s College Belfast

This write-up is republished from The Discussion below a Imaginative Commons license. Browse the first article.

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