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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Mexico to Export Nixtamalisation of Grains to Africa

Every day in the wee hours of the morning Verónica Reyes’ extended family grinds corn to make the dough they use in the tacos they sell from their food truck in Mexico City. (...) The cooked corn dough takes on a yellow tone, an effect caused by a process called nixtamalisation – the preparation of corn or other grain, which is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 25 percent of world food crops are contaminated with aflatoxins. This technique dates back to before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico in the 15th century, when local indigenous people cooked corn this way. Nixtamalisation significantly reduces aflatoxins – any of several carcinogenic mycotoxins produced by molds that commonly infect corn, peanuts and other crops. (...) Mexico is now cooperating with Kenya in east Africa to transfer know-how and technology to introduce the technique, to help that country reduce aflatoxins. Mexico and Kenya signed two cooperation agreements, one of which offers technical support and involves the sending of mills by Mexico’s International Development Cooperation Agency. Kenya needs 45 million 90-kg bags of corn a year, and only produces 40 million. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 25 percent of world food crops are contaminated with aflatoxins, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 4.5 billion people in the developing world have chronic exposure to them. Studies by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) suggest that approximately 26,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa die every year of liver cancer associated with chronic exposure to aflatoxins. (...) Officials from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) have visited Mexico to learn about nixtamalisation and test corn products. The experts who talked to the Kenyan officials said the technique could be adopted by nations in Africa. “In Africa they want to know about the process, because of its tremendous uses for food. Some variables can be influenced, such as texture and taste,” said Buendía. “The Chinese eat tortillas, so this technique could be adopted. These opportunities cannot be missed.” Besides cultural questions, the availability of water and generation of waste liquid – known as ‘nejayote’ – can be problems. For every 50 kg of corn processed, some 75 litres of water are needed. The nejayote, which is highly polluting because of its degree of alkalinity, is dumped into the sewer system. Academic researchers are investigating how to make use of the waste liquid to produce fertiliser, to reuse it in washing the corn, and to make water use more efficient. “It would be necessary to overcome the cultural barriers, and make sure the taste of lime isn’t noticeable….The technique is replicable,” said Grulin’s Linares.

Source: Inter Press Service