IKA WEEKLY – Fermentation is an invaluable biochemical process employed in processing of many foods such as bread, pap (akamu) etc and drinks such as malt, and alcoholic beverages. Fermentation of foods improves the texture, colour, flavour and shelf-life of such foods. Sometimes, the by-products of fermentation process are essential for the development of food products. For instance, the carbon (iv) oxide (CO2 ) produced by yeast fermentation of wheat in bread production is essential for the development of the dough. More so, fermentation of foods helps in detoxification of foods as can be seen in garri production.
The processing of cassava into garri within 24 hours is a common among the Ikas. The practice involves the rooting,, peeling, grating, draining and subsequent frying of the cassava into garri in less than 24 hours. Thus, the garri produced is said to have undergone incomplete fermentation process and hence, contains high amounts of cyanide, an inorganic acid present in cassava. The more harmful type is the one popularly known as “Akwo-eghe” in Ika language, which is completely processed within 12 hours. This can be identified by its glittering appearance, non-souring or sweet taste and its gummy nature when made into â€˜ebaâ€™. The consumption of this type of garri results in physiological conditions such as stomachache, lining of intestinal walls, diarrhea among others. The more insidious effect of cyanide poisoning is the blocking of the electron transport chain (respiratory chain). Hence, respiration is impaired and the synthesis of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), which is the energy currency of the cell, is disrupted. This result in the death of the victim and such cases of mortality due to cyanide poisoning via garri have been reported.
Nonetheless, cyanide poisoning through garri is easy to control. This is strictly in the production process. The producers of garri should allow the cassava to ferment for at least 24 hours before frying it into garri. This can be accomplished by leaving the garri un-fried until about 26-30 hours after grating. This will eliminate the cyanide content of the garri and prevent the subsequent health effects of cyanide poisoning.