Inflation , ‘ pirate tortillas ‘ and insecurity are undermining the sustainability of tortilla producers in the country.
Tortillas that are sold outside the regular establishment and that do not comply with current packaging, hygiene and manufacturing standards are considered pirated and could cause damage to the health of consumers, reported the Governing Council of the Traditional Tortilla.
“In some cases we know that there are tortillas that are not complying with standards 187 and 251,” said Blanca Mejía, representative of the Governing Council of the Traditional Tortilla, who assures that it is a problem at the national level.
The first governs the preparation of tortillas and 251 refers to the rules regarding hygiene. And, since they are sold outside authorized establishments, in street stalls or in grocery stores or greengrocers, it is difficult for the consumer to know if he is facing a case of “pirate tortillas”.
There are health risks for consuming pirated tortillas , since their ingestion could trigger dermatitis, diarrhea and other health problems. That is why it is important that consumers stop consuming tortillas that are sold outside of authorized places.
The ideal mass vs the ‘pirate’
The recommendation is not to buy tortillas in a place or with a provider other than a neighborhood tortilla shop. Blanca Mejía advises consumers to go directly to the counter of authorized establishments, verify the hygiene conditions and even ask about the percentage of nixtamalized corn contained in the mixture with which the tortillas are made.
The Governing Council of the Traditional Tortilla affirms that the problem with pirate tortillas is that it is not known exactly what their composition is, to what extent processed flours contaminated with glyphosate are used or have excess of some ingredients such as lime, which could cause rash.
Other ingredients and the lack of hygiene in the preparation of pirate tortillas can cause an infection that leads to digestive problems, said Blanca Mejía.
In reality, most of the authorized tortilla manufacturers, for example, in Mexico City, use a mixture where 90% of the dough is nixtamalized corn and the rest is already processed nixtamalized flour.
Nixtamalization is a process that consists of cooking the corn grain in an alkaline solution, with calcium hydroxide. There are standards to correctly carry out this procedure so that the tortilla is nutritious and safe for consumption.
However, a rule that regulates the percentages of additives and other ingredients, as well as artificial flavorings, in the preparation of processed flours is currently under discussion.
The ideal is that the tortillas are made entirely with nixtamalized corn and, according to Blanca Mejía, there is currently capacity throughout Mexico City to cover the demand for this type of dough for the thousands of authorized establishments in the capital.
Inflation, another challenge for the industry
The price of a kilo of tortilla has increased from 18.72 pesos to 21.02 pesos, between January and August 2022, according to data from the National Market Information and Integration System. Although in some states it is sold for more than 25 pesos.
This has been resented by consumers, who, in different parts of the country, have gone from consuming the full kilo to only half-kilo packages, according to the results of the 17th Inflation and Shortage Survey of the National Alliance of Small Merchants.
Blanca Mejía, of the Tortilla Governing Council, indicated that although there are inflationary pressures worldwide in all grains, there are also abuses by the large producers of nixtamalized processed flours. These argue that the only thing they do is adjust their prices according to the general inflation index.
And, on the other hand, the pirate tortillas that used to be sold even below the production cost of the “original” ones, are now adjusting their prices as well. This is doing double harm to Mexican consumers.
Insecurity also plagues tortilla makers
In the Tlalpan mayor’s office, in Mexico City, the crime of extortion is growing and there have even been cases of kidnapping against tortilla producers and marketers, said Blanca Mejía, representative of the Governing Council of the Traditional Tortilla .
And although some do not report for fear that the threats will be carried out, there are cases of collection for ‘right of flat’ that have materialized. However, the Council recommends its adherents to report at least anonymously so that the authorities know that it is a crime that is happening, otherwise, it will continue with an under-registration, as if it did not exist.
Insecurity is part of the chain of difficulties that are causing inflationary pressure. The president of the National Alliance of Small Merchants, Cuauhtémoc Rivera, also indicated that currently merchandise distributors, by road and within cities, are resorting to erasing the logos of cargo transport, so as not to attract the attention of criminals. .
At the end of the day, he indicated, insecurity raises costs and these end up being transferred to the final consumer in “last mile” stores, such as small shops and tortilla shops.