There have been viral videos of people sieving semolina products until the residue turns elastic. These videos have been shared widely on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.
In one of the videos, a woman is seen sieving semolina over a long period with water. What was left was an elastic substance which the lady in the video referred to as plastic.
The now debunked video originated from on WhatsApp, and while the App can be a great way of keeping in touch, it sadly doubles as an express lane for fast-moving fake news.
During the short-lived Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, a simple WhatsApp broadcast from some overzealous students got the entire country bathing in salt according to this Qz Africa article.
Reacting to the viral video, Professor Ogugua Charles, a Professor in the Department of Food and Technology, University of Ibadan stated that the sticky material found after sieving the semolina is Gluten;a naturally occurring protein in wheat and rye.
“I have just seen a video trending on social media, a woman washing semolina under running water….and was left with a rubbery elastic material which she referred to as plastic…What she actually had is a naturally occurring component of wheat, which is gluten,” he said.
This indeed aligns with the definition by the Harvard School of Public Health in an article about gluten and its benefits,
“Gluten is a protein naturally found in some grains including wheat, barley, and rye. It acts like a binder, holding food together and adding a “stretchy” quality—think of a pizza maker tossing and stretching out a ball of dough. Without gluten, the dough would rip easily.”
“In fact, the findings also suggested that non-celiac individuals who avoid gluten may increase their risk of heart disease, due to the potential for reduced consumption of whole grains.”
Professor Ogugua concludes his video by saying “so, anybody that does what she does will get the same result. It is a natural product.”
Other people familiar with both the product (semolina/semovita) and the subject matter(gluten) have aired their view on the topic.
“If you keep stirring wheat, the residue will be sticky and it is gluten, it is not plastic. The enzymes in your body actually break down the protein and it is very digestible,” a lady says while brandishing a pack of Semovita and encouraging people not to throw away their food in these difficult times.
While it is established that the plastic-like substance is naturally occurring in wheat and rye, one would tend to ask if it is good or bad for one’s health.
A 2017 Harvard study of over 100,000 participants found no association between long-term dietary gluten consumption and heart disease risk, as people often thought.
The study found that “individuals who avoid gluten may increase their risk of heart disease, due to the potential for reduced consumption of whole grains. Many studies have linked whole-grain consumption with improved health outcomes.”
Reacting to the now-viral video, Flour Mills of Nigeria put out an explanatory video where a quality control staff, Olusola Oladejo took viewers through a long lecture of grinding and sieving wheat grains until the residue turned gummy and elastic—same with the findings of the now-viral video, and in line with Professor Ogugua’s statement.
“There is a viral video going around where people wash and sieve semo and what they get is actually natural gluten, but they are afraid and call it plastic,” Oladejo said.
This aligns with the Harvard definition of gluten and where it is found, as well as Professor Ogugua’s assertions about getting a sticky and elastic residue after washing and sieving semolina or any wheat product.
“Gluten is responsible for the elasticity of the dough used in making bread, same as any product made from wheat and flour. You don’t have to be afraid or scared, it is not rubber or plastic. It is actually PROTEIN,” concludes Food Quality Assurance Staff, Olusola Oladejo, Flour Mills, Nigeria.