A decade-long study conducted by the Walter Sisulu University, in the Eastern Cape, has found that fungus develops in maize meal that has been stored for over a month.
The gas emissions then increases the chance of oesophageal cancer when consumed.
The study further found that the province has recorded the highest number of people who have the disease.
According to Cancer South Africa (CANSA), the oesophagus is a muscular tube through which food pass from the pharynx to the stomach .
Oesophageal cancer is a disease found anywhere in the throat – sometimes called the gullet or food pipe.
Watch: Maize meal stored for over month likely to cause cancer, study
‘Eat fresh mealie meal’
Professor Eugene Ndebia from the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Medical Physiology, at the university, is encouraging awareness campaigns on the matter.
“They don’t know that the mealie meal they are eating that was bought a month ago is not the same that one has developed a lot of gas missions inside. Its not a cause. No! But increases the risk of having the disease. The advise that we must give to people is that they must eat fresh mealie meal. They don’t store it for long. Even when they store, they must store a place where there is no humidity”
Many people in the province are living below the breadline and are experiencing high levels of poverty and depend on maize based food and drinks.
Professor Ndebia further stresses that the usage of fresh maize in umqombothi is also encouraged as this forms part of our heritage.
“It is 100% safe. The thing is how we prepare that control here” he added.