This study investigated the proximate composition, microbial safety and heavy metal contaminations of garri: a cassava ready-to-eat food product. Garri is prepared from Manihot esculenta Crantz tubers by peeling, washing and grating of the tubers and fermentation. Production, storage and selling locations could be necessary predictors of the quality and safety of garri. A total of two hundred and sixteen (n=216) samples of garri were purchased at two-weeks intervals starting from September 2014; from two major garri markets in Benue State, North-central Nigeria. The heavy metals assessed were Cu, Pb, Cd, Ni, Cr and Hg using atomic absorption spectrophotometer (AAS). The moisture, ash contents and titratable acidity were studied alongside some bacterial pathogens that appear frequently in food-borne diseases outbreaks. The moisture, ash contents and titratable acidity were within the permissible limits. The bacteria isolated included Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella and Shigella spp. whereas the fungi isolated included Mucor, Aspergillus and Fusarium. The mean total coliform count (TCC), yeast and mould count (YMC) and total viable count (TVC) ranged from minimum values of not detectable (ND) to 1.75, 2.11 and 2.60 log CFU/g, respectively. While cadmium and chromium were not detected in any of the garri samples, lead, nickel, and copper were the most abundant. The values obtained from microbiological assessments indicate potential food safety problems. Heavy metal and the measured physicochemical attributes and the ash content were within the permissible limits.
Key words: Food safety, garri, microorganisms, toxic heavy metals.
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