A comparative assessment of local, commercial and homemade amahewu with respect to nutritional value, hygiene, and other health benefits to the community.
Mbongwa, Hlengiwe P.
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Fermentation is a process by which primary food products are modified biochemically by the action of microorganisms and/or their enzymes. Several societies have, over the years, intentionally carried it out to enhance the taste, aroma, shelf-life, texture, nutritional value and other properties of food. It is used in many parts (lithe world. However, there are regional differences in use and these depend on the availability of raw materials, consumption habits. and other socio-cultural factors. This study was aimed at (comparatively) assessing, local commercial and homemade amahewu with respect to nutritional value, hygiene and other health benefits to the commirn ity. Methods employed were Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) (mycotoxins), High Perliffmance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) (mycotoxins, sugars and amino acids), Dumas (proteins), SOxhlet (lipids) and intubation technique (metabolisable energy) to analyse maize meal and amahewu samples from various regions. The regions sampled included mal3heleni (South Coast) and kwaNgcolosi (North Coast) villages. Commercial amahewu was analysed with kind permission from Clover SA. Species from the following genera were isolated and identified from amahewu samples: Lactobacillus, Saccharonivccs, Lcuconostoc, Lactococcus, Panioca, Entcrobacter and kleb•iella. Saccharotnyces was detected in commercial samples only. Gram-negative strains were identified in most of manheleni village samples. No traceable amounts of aflatoxin BI (AFB1), fumonisin B 1 (FBI) and zearalenone (ZEA) were found in Clover SA samples. AFB I was detected in 40% of both maize meal and amahewu samples from maBheleni (range 0.55 — 0.84ng/g and 8.3x10 5 — 9.1x10-5ng/g respectively). From the same village, 100% of the maize meal and 80% of the amahewu samples were contaminated with FBI (range 4.1 47.2ng/g and 1.4 ---- 6.9ng/g respectively). ZEA was detected in all maize meal samples (range 0.9 — 4.3ng/g). None of the amahewu samples contained detectable levels of ZEA. All maize meal and amahewu samples from kwaNgcolosi were contaminated with AF13 1 (range 8.3 — 30.I ng/g and 0.04 - 0.102ng/g respectively). FB I was detected in 75% of both maize meal and amahewu samples from the same village (range 0.5 — 4.1ng/g and 0.04 0.56ng/g respectively). ZEA was also found in all maize meal samples and 75% of amahewu samples (range 3.7 — 16.4ng/g and 0.03 -- 0.06ng/g respectively). MaBheleni, Clover SA and kwaNgcolosi maize meal and amahewu samples contained vitamins B1, 13 2 and B6 with a range of 0.31+0.21 - 4.48±0.81 B 1 ; 0.15±0.14 - 1.67±0.33 B2 and 0.05±0.07 - 0.77±1.45 lig/g B6. Fat levels ranged from 0.28±0.40 to 4.54±0.05 percentage by weight. The levels of proteins varied from 4.02±0.02 to 8.40±0.04 percentage by weight. Starch concentrations ranged from 18.104.22.168 to 75.911.92g/100g. Maize meal samples contained glucose and maltose, while glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, M-triose, DP 4 and 5 and DP >15 were detected in amahewu. Apparent and true metabolisable energy for homemade and commercial Freeze-dried amahewu was 13.194 and 13.696MJ/kg (AME N ); and 13.605 and 14.106M.Ekv ( 1 MEN ), respectively. This study has shown that lactic acid maize fermentation reduce' the levels of AF13 1 , FB I and ZEA toxins in maize meal, inhibits the growth of most Gram-negative bacteria, and in some instances, fermentation did improve the nutritional value. Metabolisable energy analysis represents an important tool to assess whether or not compounds ingested are converted to sources of energy in the body and utilised. Amahewu fermentation yielded beneficial products (probiotics: reduced mycotoxins levels and reduced starch). In conclusion, natural lactic acid maize fermentation to produce amahewu will do more good than harm to the consumer, therefore, people need to be advised on how to safely store their maize and also to be encouraged to consume their stored maize in fermented form.