Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Pretoria (UP) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the Mexican Ambassador to South Africa, his Excellency Mr Mauricio Escanero instigated an initiative to bring together scientists working on food security in sub-Saharan Africa, with their counterparts in Mexico.
This mini symposium, which coincided with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's World Food Day, specifically focussed on informing the local food industry of the benefits of the technology of nixtamalisation which is used to process maize in Mexico. The Embassy of Mexico in South Africa, together with UP, in collaboration with the South African Association for Food Science and Technology (SAAFoST) hosted this mini symposium on Maize Nixtamalization at the Mexican Embassy in Pretoria.
In his opening address at the mini symposium Ambassador Escanero said: 'Although Mexico has gifted maize to the rest of world, on its journey to Africa it lost its luggage – the knowledge on how to cultivate maize sustainably and how to process it to optimise its nutritional quality and ensure food safety.'
Three presentations were made by the Mexican experts: Nixtamalization: Past and Future by Dr Luis Alberto Vargas (UNAM); Ingredients for Nixtamalization: Quality and Impact in Processed and Final Products by Dr Grizelda Vasquez (Mexican National Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research Institute, INIFAP) and Techniques of Nixtamalization and Industrial Processing Possibilities by Dr Yolanda Salinas (INIFAP).
The speakers were introduced by Prof Sheryl Hendriks, Director of UP's Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being and the mini symposium concluded with an expert panel discussion led by Prof John Taylor from the Department of Food Science. The vote of thanks was given by Prof Edward Webb, Acting Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at UP.