Nutritious African cricket to be used to fortify porridge

Researchers have discovered new insect nutrients that can be used to fortify porridge.

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) said African porridge cereals, like sorghum and finger millet, were rich in carbohydrates but low in energy and nutrient densities.  

However, studies by the centre identified edible African cricket, also known as Scapsipedus icipe, which is rich in crude protein and fat.

The government, through Legal Notice No.62 of June 15, 2012, made it mandatory to fortify wheat flour, dry milled maize products, salt and vegetable fats.

However, some companies have defied the law meant to address stunted growth and malnutrition among minors. According to Icipe, the researchers used the insect nutrients to transform the African porridge from a low-nutrient meal into a super-food that exceeds micro-nutrient requirements.

Icipe scientist Chrysantus Mbi Tanga said the aim was to develop a nourishing product acceptable, appealing and accessible to a wide range of consumers.

He said the fortified porridge flour had twice as much protein, three to four times more crude fat and double the amount of iron and zinc.

As per the research, the cricket-fortified porridge surpassed the set standards with its protein ranging between 15g and 16g per 100g and energy from 408kilo – 414 kilo calories per 100g.

“Porridge, due to its wide availability, easy preparation and popularity across the continent is an ideal food for bio-fortification,” said the scientist.

The centre Director General and CEO Dr Segenet Kelemu said the continent was endowed with a rich diversity of animals and plants, many of them underutilised.

He said insects had traditionally been consumed in Africa, as they had superior nutrients that were digested equally well by people. “Until now, insects have not been aptly mainstreamed into food-to-food bio-fortification, and this new discovery will help address cases of malnutrition,” he said.

According to Ms Nelly Maiyo, who participated in the research, cereals used locally are low in energy because they contain anti–nutrient compounds that block the absorption of certain essential nutrients in the body. “We tested several traditional grain processing techniques and we found that the germination and fermentation techniques improved the availability of nutrients in the two grains,” she added.

She said the research involved fortifying finger millet with high-quality nutrients of the edible cricket and the grain of amaranth.

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