A few years ago, I wrote a post about how there were so many bad food choices in the world and someone commented “Thank goodness we do not have processed food in Nigeria”.
The rest of the comment seemed to imply that the reader was under the impression that the foods we grew up with were all natural, healthy and not processed.
She is not alone as a lot of people tend to think that this is a new thing and that with most of the things we grew up seeing, we would naturally not class them as processed food.
I disagree. Vehemently. This is not even a matter of “New Nigeria”. By the time I was growing up, we already had things like Treetop (colored, sweetened drinks), Gala Sausage roll (I am not even sure I can properly describe it as a sausage roll, but pretty much everyone in Nigeria knows what I refer to). We also had Samco, Ribena (yes, it is water and sugar with just a little bit of fruit concentrate) and a plethora of biscuits and candies (remember Okin biscuit? I loved them. The square shaped one was an easy favorite). There has also always been Bournvita, Milo and Ovaltine beverages. Let’s not even begin to talk about seasoning cubes like Knorr and Maggi.
“New Nigeria” has even more to offer because we have quite a number of offerings from other countries. We see folks eating certain things on their blogs, youtube or elsewhere on the internet and we decide that we MUST try it. Rather than importing health, we are importing Potato Chips, a wide range of cookies and wafers, processed deli meats, plastic cheese (what else can one call those Kraft Singles – watch this video here). Heck, even some spices are not all-natural foods.
That is not to say that the Nigerian companies are not catching up. Let’s not forget that Coca Cola and Pepsico have been here for years. We have La Casera’s wide range of drinks and the other day, someone asked me if she could give my daughter “Bobo”. I had no idea what that was so she had to explain to me that it was a flavored milk drink. Of course, their selling point would be that milk is necessary for strong bones and teeth (lie) and that a flavored version would be more “palatable” for the kiddies (double lie).
Ah, and then there are the ubiquitous noodles. Indomie led the way and other companies followed. What was not to love? A 2 – 5 minute cook time to yield a “delicious”, satisfying, pocket friendly meal.
Yet what nutrients do we really get from any of these things? Because that is what FOOD means.
any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.
Did you catch the key word? Nutritious.
What, pray is Nutritious? Well, for something to be nutritious, it MUST contain Nutrients. And what are those? Hold, on my trusty dictionary is coming to the rescue.
a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life: fish is a source of many important nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals.
So, you see the nutrients have to actually have been in the food. Not like processed foods that have had the nutrients processed out of them and then (in some cases) some synthetic Vitamins added at the end of the process of refining them.
Now let me ask you…are there processed foods in Nigeria? Which do you know?