Is molasses safe to eat? (risks and benefits)
In this article, we will discuss in which cases molasses is not safe to eat, whether molasses goes bad, how to know if it is spoiled, and the risks of consuming spoiled molasses.
Molasses is obtained from the manufacturing of sugar, especially from sugarcane. It is a dark viscous product that can be used as a sugar substitute.
Is molasses safe to eat?
Yes, molasses is safe to eat, unless it is spoiled. Molasses similar to syrup, honey or other natural sweeteners are safe to eat in moderate quantities. Consuming molasses in excess, however, is not considered safe or healthy (3).
The excessive ingestion of sugar, especially refined sugar, is related to a higher incidence of metabolic diseases, including obesity, type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic hepatic disease in the population (3).
On the other hand, when refined sugar is replaced by molasses, maple syrup, agave syrup or honey, the risk of developing such diseases is reduced, showing that the use of natural unrefined sugar sources is favourable to health.
When is molasses not safe to eat?
Molasses is not safe to eat when spoiled or when consumed in excess (1, 3). Despite the positive properties of molasses which make it healthier than refined sugar sources, molasses is composed mostly of sugar (4).
Molasses contains on average 29 to 40 % sucrose and 4 to 14 % glucose, depending on the source and production process (4). In this way, consuming molasses may not be safe if overconsumed (3).
Spoilage of molasses can occur if the product is exposed to a high-moisture environment and absorbs moisture, favouring the development of microorganisms.
Molasses are also susceptible to contamination by pathogenic bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, due to improper or unhygienic handling, which may lead to spoilage (5).
Is consuming molasses healthy?
Yes, consuming molasses in moderate quantities is considered healthy. Molasses contain a lower amount of sugar than refined sugar and are a source of minerals and phytochemicals (3, 4).
Molasses contain amino acids, calcium, and magnesium and are considered a good source of iron. It contains vitamins, such as biotin and riboflavin, in addition to polyphenols, with antioxidant properties (3, 4).
Including molasses in your diet may have a positive effect on your bone health and immune system, as reported in studies (4).
Can molasses go bad?
Yes, molasses can go bad if it absorbs moisture. Moisture favours the development of microorganisms that are naturally present in the molasses.
On the other hand, if stored in conditions that do not permit the absorption of moisture, molasses has a long shelf life without presenting changes. This is explained by the high concentration of sugar in the molasses (1, 2).
In general, yeasts and some types of bacteria can survive in molasses. These microorganisms are found in the raw material and are not eliminated during the production process or they are present due to cross-contamination (2).
After a long storage time or under improper storage conditions, which permit the water content in the product to rise, these microorganisms may develop, resulting in off-flavour in the molasses, the production of gas and other negative changes (1).
How to know if molasses is spoiled?
An altered consistency, darkening of the molasses, the presence of off-flavours and off-odours, and growth of mould and formation of slime are typical signs indicating spoilage in molasses (1, 2).
Yests, such as Zygosaccharomyces rouxii, grow on the surface of the molasses and form white or cream patches, ferment the product and generate gas, which is noticeable by the bloating of the package (1, 2).
In addition to osmophilic yeasts, mesophylic bacteria and moulds can grow in high-moisture molasses and bring health risks. The turbid appearance or precipitation of the product may indicate spoilage.
If you notice any sign of spoilage, avoid consuming the product. Consuming spoiled molasses can lead to foodborne illnesses (1, 5).
In this article, we discussed the health aspects of molasses, whether consuming molasses is safe, and how to identify spoiled molasses.
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Doyle MP. Compendium of the microbiological spoilage of foods and beverages. Springer Science & Business Media; 2009 Sep 23.
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Valle M, St-Pierre P, Pilon G, Marette A. Differential Effects of Chronic Ingestion of Refined Sugars versus Natural Sweeteners on Insulin Resistance and Hepatic Steatosis in a Rat Model of Diet-Induced Obesity. Nutrients [Internet] 2020;12(8):2292. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu12082292
Jamir L, Kumar V, Kaur J, Kumar S, Singh H. Composition, valorization and therapeutical potential of molasses: a critical review. Environmental Technology Reviews. 2021 Jan 1;10(1):131-42.
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