As is common in this age of rushing headlong into the future the old ways are being brushed aside for the microwave generation. Whether through misguided philanthropy or sheer rampant greed our agriculture and food culture often suffers and historical cultural knowledge and richness is lost. This is currently the case with the worlds most important grain, maize. Through the interference by large companies such as Monsanto and their worldwide dominance in transgenic grain production and the unethical practices of secondary manufacturers that deceive consumers by artificially colouring and flavouring either masa harina or tortillas and neglecting the processes of nixtamalization the humble tortilla is in danger of becoming another bland product of mass consumption.
La Fundación Tortilla Mexicana (Tortilla Mexicana Foundation), accompanied by del Colectivo Alianza por Nuestra Tortilla (roughly the Collective Alliance for Our Tortilla) as well as groups of tortilleros, restaurants, tortillerías, chefs and consumers are striving for authorities to revise the NOM-187-SSA1 / SCFI-2002 standard (1). This NGO is fighting for authentic Mexican tortillas and needs our help (2). Visit fundaciontortilla.org (3) to sign their petition and support the cultural patrimony of not only Mexico but the whole world.
- The Official Mexican Standard outlining the production of masa, masa flour and the products created from these ingredients. http://www.salud.gob.mx/unidades/cdi/nom/187ssa1scfi02.html
Below is a copy of the letter (thank you online translation) of the requests being made.
Dr. Jorge Alcocer Varela
Dr. Graciela Márquez Colín
Secretary of Economy
By means of this, the undersigned, we are writing to you in order to request the revision and update of NOM-187-SSA1 / SCFI-2002. This year, this rule should be revised according to the schedule of the “Mechanism for the revision of Mexican official norms and Mexican norms”. With everything, the
The standard was ratified without considering the relevance of carrying out its review.
We have identified several sections in the standard that violate our right to food, established in Article 4 of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, as well as contradictions with Article 1 of the Federal Law on Consumer Protection. That is why, with basis in Article 58 of the Regulation of the Federal Law on Metrology and Standardization, we request that the revision and updating of the standard be included in the supplement of the National Program of Normalization 2019.
The corn tortilla is the most important food in the diet of the Mexican people, its main source of energy and proteins. Over the past 30 years, tortilla consumption and the quality of this have fallen drastically, without due attention has been paid to the effects that this represents for health, the economy and culture of our country
The elaboration and commercialization of the corn tortilla has changed enormously in recent years. Today in day, it is possible to find a very wide offer of products marketed under the name of “tortilla”, but they differ a lot in terms of quality, nutrition and flavour. In the norm, even, there is no characterization of the different tortilla types and qualities found in the market.
Traditionally, tortillas are made in Mexico based on native maize grains or criollo production regional, following the traditional nixtamalization process. This process is fundamental for the liberation and assimilation of nutrients, as well as to grant the texture and traditional flavour of the corn tortilla. In the
Today, many of the tortillas in our country are made with hybrid maize of inferior quality or with industrialized flours that, in many cases, eliminate or replace the process of nixtamalization. This
As a result, the tortillas thus produced lack the nutritional and organoleptic properties that they own those produced with our ancestral maizes under the prehispanic process of nixtamalization.
Likewise, the substitution of local corn has led to the abandonment of the field and, consequently, the loss of genetic resources of vital importance for food security. The lack of a system that differentiates between the different types of tortilla generates an unfair market for those who strive to offer a quality tortilla, in addition to providing little transparency to the consumer.
Likewise, the elaboration of tortillas with transgenic or genetically modified maize that is they matter from the United States. Such maizes are produced under a productive model that demands high levels of agrochemicals, many of which are present in the tortilla we consume
Mexicans and that represent a clear danger to health and the environment
In addition, in the elaboration and conservation of the industrial tortilla the use and abuse of additives has been allowed chemicals such as dyes, bleaches, humectants, gums and preservatives, which should be evaluated to determine possible harmful effects to the health of the people. The results of this evaluation will allow updating the list of additives prohibited and allowed in the standard, as well as the maximum quantities which can be used from them.
Among the additives allowed are the dyes, which has generated many of the tortillas and blue tlacoyos are painted, instead of being made with blue corn. This fact undermines the rights of the consumer, affects thousands of small producers of blue corn and puts the corn tortilla at risk as cultural heritage of our country.
In the case of marketing, the incursion of supermarkets and convenience stores in the sale of tortilla, and its delivery at home has generated great pressure on tortilla producers’ networks traditionally and in tortillerías, affecting thousands of families that depend on this activity.
The corn and tortilla industry is one of the most important economic activities in our country and, therefore, one of the ones that generates the most jobs. It is necessary to build a clear regulation and fair for the production, processing and marketing of the tortilla in Mexico. Therefore, we request the intervention of both Secretaries of State to give attention to our request.
Among the points that we consider pertinent to undergo revision, are the following:
· Identify and differentiate between the different types of tortillas and toasts that are made and sold in our country.
· Differentiate in its denomination the nixtamalized corn tortillas from the processed ones based on industrial flours, or with a mixture of both.
· Identify, name and describe the different processes used in the industry to cook, nixtamalize and dehydrate the corn.
· Regulate and describe the use of permitted ingredients for the preparation of tortillas combined with other foods such as cactus, cassava, amaranth, banana, chaya, cacao, chiles, herbs, spinach, etc. · Require the declaration of ingredients of industrialized flour when it is used as compound ingredient for making tortillas and toasts.
· Carry out a review and update of the permitted additives in the elaboration of tortillas and toasts, as well as its maximum limits of use.
· Establish commercial information and labelling requirements for the additives used in the industry of the dough and the tortilla.
· Prohibit the use of the name “improver” for the additives used in the industry, this is because they hide information from the consumer and health personnel, because they promote advertising deceiving
· Prohibit the use of dyes in the production of blue corn tortillas and other processed foods based on blue dough.
· Regulate the sanitary and commercial specifications of the different types of tortilla sales at home and sale in coolers in establishments outside the industry.
· Regulate the use of qualifying adjectives such as: 100% corn, 100% natural, fortified, among others. · Regulate the use of flavourings and demand their declaration on the labelling. We appreciate the attention given to this request, which involves issues of great importance to health, culture and economy of Mexican society. We look forward to a positive resolution that promotes the updating of the mentioned norm, the wide and diverse participation of actors and authorities, as well as the construction of necessary agreements for the benefit of Mexican consumers. Sincerely, Mexican Maize Tortilla Foundation
Dr. Hugo López-Gatell Rámirez – Undersecretary of Prevention and Promotion of Health
Dr. José Alonso Novelo Baeza – Federal Commissioner for Protection against Health Risks and
President of the National Consultative Committee for Standardization of Health Regulation and Promotion
Lic. Alfonso Guati Rojo – Chairman of the National Standardization Advisory Committee of the Secretariat of Economy
Dr. Víctor Manuel Villalobos Arámbula – Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development
Ing. Víctor Suárez Carrera – Assistant Secretary of Food Self-Sufficiency at SADER
Dr. Víctor Manuel Toledo Manzur – Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources
Lic. Alejandra Frausto Guerrero – Secretary of Culture
Lic. Francisco Ricardo Sheffield Padilla – Head of the Federal Consumer Procurator’s Office
Dr. David Kershenobich – National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition Salvador Zubirán
Dr. Juan Rivera Dommarco – National Institute of Public Health (INSP)
Lic. Ignacio Ovalle Fernández – Head of Mexican Food Security (SEGALMEX)
Dr. Crispim Moreira – Representative of FAO in Mexico