Are tin tomato pastes as healthy as seed tomatoes?
No they are not. You can’t even compare.
In what way? I thought manufacturers simply turn tomatoes into past and pour in cans…
Usually, they fill them with preservatives to prevent molding. The can itself isn’t 100% safe. There are three types of spoilage in food: spoilage within the food itself, spoilage within the food and its container, and then there is spoilage within the food and the environment. That is where the microbial contamination comes in.The cans themselves are usually coated in chemicals and the tin itself is made with aluminium. During transportation and handling, there are possibilities of the tins bending and when it bends, the interior coating will get compromised and the food will react directly with the aluminium or the iron. Aside the preservatives, some other things are added. Some companies will add colour to make it darker, some companies might actually add syrup to make it sweeter and more in quantity. Come to think of it, you buy these tomatoes and they are expensive and yet the manufacturer still has to prepare, package and transport. What makes you think they don’t get their own from the handling or something? There are so many factors that come into play here. There is no way you could actually compare with fresh tomato.
As it is now, we seem to have no choice but to settle for tin tomato pastes; but are there better alternative?
Ordinarily, I have never been into tomatoes as such because I use a lot of vegetables for my rice for example. I have so many other ways of preparing my rice or rice with vegetable sauce; you can mix corn flour with cold water, just something to thicken it with. You add your vegetables (carrots, spring onions, etc.). These are different ways you could eat without taking stew. Tin tomato has also been associated with prostate cancer in men. In fact, it(tin tomato) is generally not advisable.
We have them in different brands; is it that none of them are healthy or some may be safe due to the credibility of their manufacturers?
Even those manufactured abroad by big Western countries may not actually be healthier because the farmers there usually use genetically modified products and there are of course hormones that they could use on the tomatoes to prevent spoilage. So, instead of putting chemicals to preserve, they would have already used the hormones to cultivate the tomatoes. It depends on what you call healthier. They may end up not using preservatives but such products would have been treated seriously. Any natural tomato cannot sit on a cupboard for more than three days but genetically modified tomatoes can sit for two weeks and even more. These are things we have to look at if it is coming from West: is it real tomatoes or is it genetically modified? And even if it is coming from the west, is it not still the same aluminium-coated packet or tin that they are still using to package it? And being acidic, there is the possibility of leaking into the tomato because the tomato is highly acidic on its own and aluminium is a heavy metal. The fact that it undergoes a longer handling process also increases the chances of compromising the produce. As a food scientist, I tell you categorically, most packaged foods are made to last on shelf either by modification of the food product or by packaging and these are the major causes of contamination in food.
How do we preserve our tomatoes so we don’t run into problems as we have now because people are already clamouring for more tomato paste factories in the country?
Of course, that’s because they feel they don’t have other choices. But then, for you to have a tomato that will last you, you could buy real tomatoes, boil and evaporate the water, put in a container, pour a stream of oil on top of it, and put in your freezer. That tomato could last for long. If there is no light, drying could be the only other option. Water is not the only source of nutrient in tomatoes. There are vitamins that are water soluble and there are vitamins that are fat soluble. Even if the water dries off, you are still left with some percentage of water soluble vitamins. I would rather go for dry tomatoes than tin tomato paste. The environment and handling are just a few factors with sun-drying of tomatoes but with good boiling, I think to an extent, most bacteria get eliminated at more than 150 degree centigrade.
What is your advice to Nigerians at this time when we are all trying to cope with hike in price of tomato?
I wouldn’t advise a family that has children to keep feeding them tin tomatoes all the time. It is not healthy. You could explore other options. There is scent leave and fresh palm nuts; there is a stew you could make of that. It’s as healthy as anything. You could also steam your normal green and spice it up with a lot of crayfish and onion and you could eat your rice with it. You mustn’t scramble for tomatoes. If it is not available, there are so many other options.