Assessment of levels of monosodium glutamate, aspartame and sodium benzoate in some chili and tomato sauces in Nairobi County, Kenya
Oyiengo, Elizabeth Waithira
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Food additives are substances that are added to food or animal feeds during processing or storage. They are usually added to preserve or improve the quality of the food or feed. They include antioxidants, preservatives, stabilizers, coloring and flavoring agents. Food additives that are present in sauces include monosodium glutamate (MSG), saccharin, aspartame, sorbic acid and sodium benzoate. Chili and tomato sauces are extensively used by both young and old in processed foods such as potato chips and sausages sold in Nairobi. The food additives in these sauces are seen to be beneficial but their chemical safety is of great concern to the public health for they can adversely affect health when used for a long time or when added in high concentration. Sodium benzoate can form carcinogenic benzene in presence of vitamin C. It also causes hives, asthma and allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and damages the mitochondrial DNA, while aspartame and monosodium glutamate can cause irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and diabetes amongst others. Chili and tomato sauces are added to dishes to add flavor and as a spice and are widely consumed. Therefore, a regular chemical analysis of level of additives in food is of great importance. This study was undertaken to determine the levels of MSG, aspartame, and sodium benzoate in chili and tomato sauces sold in Nairobi County. A total of 50 samples representing 6 brands of chili and 8 brands of tomato sauce of different batches, depending on availability, were purchased from selected supermarkets in Nairobi city centre. The MSG and aspartame were extracted from the sauces using water while sodium benzoate was extracted using methanol. They were then analysed using high performance liquid chromatography. The data was then analyzed by analysis of variance (ANOVA) to determine if there was a significance difference between the brands. The mean levels of MSG were found to range between 8.7 ± 1.3 - 29.7 ± 8.6 g/kg. Eleven (11) out of 14 (79%) brands analyzed for MSG had their levels above the European maximum allowed levels of 10 g/kg. Aspartame was detected in only two samples of tomato sauce with average means of 188.5 ± 0.3 and 227.5 ± 2.5 mg/kg; these levels were within the codex allowed limits of 350 mg/kg. Sodium benzoate levels ranged between 925.8 ± 19.0 - 2953.4 ± 66.5 mg/kg. Thirteen (13) out of 14 (93%) brands analyzed for sodium benzoate had their levels above the maximum allowed levels of 1000 mg/kg. The results of the study therefore showed high levels of monosodium glutamate and sodium benzoate in chili and tomato sauces. There was also a significance difference in levels of MSG, aspartame and sodium benzoate between the brands. These results will be used to sensitize the public on the levels of these food additives in both chili and tomato sauces and subsequently their effects. The results will also be available to Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and other food and safety authorities for appropriate action.