Are fermented foods in Ghana alcoholic?


Food and Health


Most of our staple foods in

Before we go deeper, let’s establish some sort of baseline. Let’s narrow it down to the difference between foods that contain some amounts of alcohol (usually undetectable) and alcoholic foods/beverages. The difference? Simply put, alcoholic foods/beverages can potentially cause intoxication.

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Fermentation is a process where energy is released when sugar is converted into alcohol, gasses or acid. The environment that this process takes place is controlled and devoid of oxygen. The more you keep the food from air or oxygen, the higher by-products of fermentation and thus more alcoholic. It is a bit difficult to measure alcohol content of fermented foods that are made locally or traditionally. But these are usually so small that its effects would hardly be felt. Unlike commercial processes, it is easier to measure because of the scientific and very controlled procedures they follow.

According to Food Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (FRI-CSIR), fermented foods constitutes 40 % of food consumed all over the country. A key element in the fermentation process is sugar. Or very high content of carbohydrates (as with most Ghanaian foods) which easily gets converted into sugar. Fermentation gives food a strident and acrid taste, which could signal that it has probably gone bad. Some examples of fermented foods are fula, wagashie, gari, kenkey, banku and koko. Some fermented local drinks are pito and asaana.

There are some, who are very sensitive to the fermentation by-products, especially those that do not consume alcohol. And so might recognise this spirit, even in its minutest quantity in foods. So we hear them complaining of feeling drowsy, sleepy or sometimes hyper after consuming maybe kenkey. Some can also smell it, but sadly most of us have lost this ability because of frequent drinking of alcoholic brews.

Fermentation enriches food in essential fatty acids and amino acids. Decrease in cooking time and fuel consumption. And they are more easily digestible and contain good bacteria for your stomach culture. It adds more flavour, just think about how those pickles take our sandwiches to a whole new level. And us we all know a healthy gut is a healthy immune system. Say bye-bye to bloating.

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There are genuine concerns for alcohol consumption. For pregnant women the effects of alcohol can be very damaging to their unborn babies. Most people assume that a pregnant mother has to be an alcoholic before the foetus can be harmed. The fact is that frequency as well as timing are both factors. It so happens that, there are times during the foetal development that makes it more venerable to external/internal assault. So if you alcohol even in the minutes quantities can cause significant damage. These include fermented foods and naturally alcohol occurring fruits.

Some medications don’t react well with alcohol, it may either increase or decrease its effects. Which could be fatal in both cases. Also Ghana, a very religious nation state, generally frowns on alcohol consumption especially alcoholic beverages. This makes one very conscious when serving or offering drinks and foods to visitors at social gatherings and functions.


We should not be worried about food that contains alcohol. Because alcohol is present in all fermented foods. And also occurs in some fruits naturally. Nevertheless, we should all be mindful, because you can actually get drunk on some of them!


Ghanaian Foods.