5 techniques to make certain it truly is secure for consuming

A typical west African menu is not complete with no a fermented foods or drink. These are meals that have been transformed by natural processes involving “friendly” microorganisms like germs or yeast. The microorganisms break down the sugars and other substances in the meals, which variations the taste and texture, and at times even preserves the foodstuff.

Some examples of fermented foodstuff from the location are people produced from African locust beans, these kinds of as iru (Nigeria), dawadawa (Ghana), netetu (Senegal) and afitin (Benin). Other products contain okpehe (Nigeria), soydawadawa (Ghana), ogiri (east Nigeria), and Burkina Faso’s bikalga and soumbala.

Fermented foods are wealthy in protein, nutritional fibre, and critical minerals this sort of as iron, calcium, and potassium. Though many of these foods are applied as condiments, they also serve as small-price tag meat substitutes because of to their higher protein content material and style.

The alkalinity of these fermented foods will help preserve them, for the reason that microorganisms (which result in foods to spoil) really do not improve so effortlessly in alkaline substances.

Nevertheless, there are protection fears with some of these foodstuff. Risks can occur in the way they are ready and the top quality of the fermentation system.

As a microbiologist, I’ve analyzed west African alkaline fermented food items and highlighted some protection problems they present. I have also proposed methods to make these meals safer.

Food stuff protection pitfalls

Iru (African locust beans) and other legume-based mostly merchandise supply crucial amino acids and are a wealthy source of protein and fibre. Dawadawa is made up of anti-oxidants that help safeguard cells from oxidative problems (mobile harm triggered by stress).

But a person basic safety problem is the contamination danger from mycotoxins and microbes linked to inadequate cleanliness. Mycotoxins are toxic substances created by selected moulds that can contaminate crops during progress, harvest, storage or processing.

Mycotoxins are able of leading to health conditions or even loss of life in people and other animals. The adverse health results of mycotoxins array from acute poisoning to extensive-phrase outcomes such as immune deficiency and most cancers. Large publicity to aflatoxin, a kind of mycotoxin, will cause liver hurt, jaundice, haemorrhage and oedema. Lower exposure to aflatoxin about a extensive time may cause immunosuppression and cancer.

Unregulated common practices, which may possibly require unhygienic utensils and handling, can pose a danger to food stuff security by introducing micro organism that can endure alkaline situations.

Examine more:
How does foodstuff get contaminated? The unsafe habits that eliminate a lot more than 400,000 folks a yr

Also, fermented food stuff products and solutions normally use salt as a preservative. Consuming far too substantially salt may possibly adversely affect overall health and worsen situations like cardiovascular conditions and stroke.

So, to minimise the safety challenges of fermented foods, it is vital to decrease the volume of salt and to retail outlet food items thoroughly. Examine grains and seeds, and discard any that appear mouldy, discoloured, or shrivelled. Steer clear of harm to grains just before and all through drying, and in storage.

Food protection calls for action and cooperation in 5 places: agriculture, foods engineering, nourishment, microbiology, and restrictions.

Five strategies to safer fermented foods


The high-quality and security of fermented food items lies in the top quality of the “substrate” it is produced from, these types of as legumes. Starting a fermentation approach with minimal excellent substrates produces a high danger of introducing potentially pathogenic germs and fungi, or toxic compounds made by them. Seeds and other agricultural deliver applied should be of high quality and licensed harmless for human consumption.

Foods technological innovation

Risk-free alkaline fermentation calls for thorough control of creation ailments. Inadequate fermentation time and sub-optimum temperature might not make the enzymes that get rid of pathogens and reduce harmful toxins.


Generally, very small investigate has been finished on the nutritional composition of fermented solutions. There is a require for much more details on this. Research really should check out what influences the dietary content of the goods, these as soil qualities, weather and the condition of maturity at harvest. Info should be collected and analysed all over the method, from the farm to processing and usage levels. A sturdy measure of nutrient composition would support to formulate recommendations on day by day intakes.


The basic safety of the unique strains of organisms applied in fermentation wants a lot more investigation. Molecular and genomics resources could be employed to identify the enzyme creating species and strains in these fermented foods.


Food polices, insurance policies and monitoring are necessary in west African nations to conquer nearby worries. Among the a variety of interventions, food handlers should be educated by foodstuff security bodies on critical microbiology, hygiene and sanitation as it problems their goods. Checking of compliance through manufacturing, packaging and storage in the sector is vital.

The culinary traditions of west Africa provide a treasure trove of flavours and activities. Alkaline fermented food items, with their unique preferences, textures and aromas, also offer probable well being benefits. With significant-top quality substrates, appropriate starter cultures, the suitable hygiene procedures, optimal pH and temperature in generation, and correct storage and packaging, buyers can delight in the region’s fermented delicacies with confidence.