Pirate tortillas in Mexico: how to identify them and health risks of eating them

The tortilla is one of the most important foods in the Mexican diet, they accompany stews every day and are used for the preparation of many dishes; However, recently, it has been revealed that there are “pirate tortillas” which put the health of consumers at risk, since they can be made with unsuitable and unhealthy ingredients in order, for example, to reduce costs of production.

According to the Tortilla Governing Council, yes, that’s a real thing, the production and sale of “pirate tortillas” have been reported, which are made with inappropriate ingredients and have characteristics that can be identified so that they are not consumed.

What are “pirate tortillas” made of?

Sergio Jarquín, president of the Governing Council of the Traditional Tortilla, assures that the producers of “pirate tortillas” can use the following ingredients:

  • lagging corn
  • Cornmeal
  • Non-potable water
  • Lime in large quantities
  • It May contain tortillas from previous days (tronados)

One of the main reasons for “pirate tortillas” is the savings in production costs that can be seen reflected in the low cost of the product, that is, if a kilo is sold at a low cost in a tortilla shop, one should doubt the quality and above all of its consumption.

What are original tortillas made of?

The original tortillas are usually made exclusively from corn dough, a proportion of lime, and water.

The lime, which is not the lime used for construction, must be the so-called “quicklime”, which helps the nixtamalization process.

In this process, the corn precooking water is alkalinized and the grain changes its chemical structure, so it softens, becomes easier to digest and other nutritional components adhere to it that, by itself, it would not have; for example, calcium, according to the Tortilla Foundation.

How to identify “pirate tortillas”?

Here we tell you some of the characteristics of the “pirate tortillas” and the original ones.

  • A bad smell, which can be reduced with excess use of lime
  • It can also be seen that the dough of the “pirate tortillas” is white, when the color it should have is “cream”, because it contains the pigments of the corn.
  • An original tortilla smells like corn and has yellowish pigments
  • Well-made tortillas have a soft texture, but they do not crack or break.
  • The texture of the tortillas must be thick and consistent; In addition, they must react well to overheating, since they must be inflated
  • Original tortillas can be stored in a brown bag in the refrigerator; will keep for up to three days or more
  • The “pirate tortillas” can have a low price, compared to the average
  • When eaten, it should not taste like earth, or lime or be very salty.

Some pirate tortilla shops deceive the consumer and sell them this product with lower quality and, therefore, the nutritional value is reduced.

Risks of eating “pirate tortillas”

Among the main risks of eating “pirate tortillas” are stomach upsets, which can lead, depending on the conditions of preparation and use of ingredients, to bacterial infections.

Therefore, the recommendations are as follows.

  • Purchase in tortilla factories where you can observe the manufacturing process (machinery, handling of the dough, and hygiene conditions)
  • Avoid buying them in other types of establishments such as small shops
  • If the price is lower, you should doubt the raw materials with which it was made
  • If the sale of “pirate tortillas” is detected, it can be reported to Profeco

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