Standardization of cassava mahewu fermentation and assessment of the effects of iron sources used for fortification
Cassava root is the main staple for 70% of the population in Mozambique, particularly in inaccessible rural areas, but is known to be low in iron. Anaemia is a public health problem in mothers and preschool children in Mozambique and up to 40% of these cases are probably due to dietary iron deficiency. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recognize the fortification of foodstuff as an effective method to remedy dietary deficiencies of micronutrients, including iron. Cassava mahewu, a non-alcoholic fermented beverage is prepared at subsistence level from cassava roots using indigenous procedures. The aim of the study was to standardize mahewu fermentation and investigate if the type of cassava fermented, or the iron compound used for fortification affected the final product. Roots of sweet and bitter varieties of cassava from four districts (Rapale, Meconta, Alto Molocue and Zavala) in Mozambique, were peeled, dried and pounded to prepare flour. Cassava flour was cooked and fermented under controlled conditions (45°C for 24 h). The fermentation period and temperature were set, based on the findings of a pilot study which showed that an end-point pH of about 4.5 was regularly reached after 24 h at 45°C. Cassava mahewu was fortified with ferrous sulfate (FeSO4.7H2O) or ferrous fumarate (C4H2FeO4) at the beginning (time zero) and at the end of fermentation (24 h). The amount of iron added to the mahewu was based on the average of the approved range of iron used for the fortification of maize meal. The mean pH at the endpoint was 4.5, with 0.29% titratable acidity. The pH and acidity were different to those reported in previous studies on maize mahewu, whereas the solid extract of 9.65% was found to be similar. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and yeast growth were not significantly different in mahewu fortified with either of the iron compounds. There was no significant difference between cassava mahewu made from bitter or sweet varieties. A standard method for preparation and iron fortification of cassava mahewu was developed. It is recommended that fortification occurs at the end of fermentation when done at household level.
Keywords: Cassava mahewu, fermentation, ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, iron fortification, Mozambique