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Development of pulse-based probiotics by fermentation using Fiti sachets for the developing world

Toby Le (Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University, London, Canada)
Sharareh Hekmat (Department Food and Nutritional Sciences, Brescia University College, London, Canada)

Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 3 March 2020

Issue publication date: 28 October 2020




This study aims to determine the probiotic potential of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 from Fiti sachets, in four widely consumed pulses, namely, black-eyed pea, pigeon pea, kabuli chickpea and desi chickpea. The secondary objective was to determine the viability of the fermented pulses during 21 days of storage at 4°C.


Each pulse sample was mixed with a Fiti sachet (one gram of freeze-dried consortium of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Streptococcus thermophilus C106) and fermented for up to 120 h. To assess the samples’ storage potential, they were refrigerated at 4°C for 21 days. Microbial enumerations and pH measurements were collected during fermentation and storage to determine the viability and fermentation potential of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Fiti, respectively.


There was a significant (p = 0.01) difference in mean microbial counts in all pulse samples throughout fermentation. At 24 h of fermentation, the mean bacterial count of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 in black-eyed pea, pigeon pea, kabuli chickpea and desi chickpea were 1.32 × 109 ± 0.11, 1.01 × 109 ± 0.16, 1.52 × 109 ± 0.14 and 0.80 × 109 ± 0.05 CFU/mL, respectively. Fermentation of pigeon pea, kabuli chickpea and desi chickpea at 48 h yielded the highest bacterial count for Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 while black-eyed pea reached its highest bacterial count at 72 h of fermentation. The bacterial concentration of all pulse samples remained at around 109 CFU/mL during the refrigeration period of 21 days at 4°C. Furthermore, the pH of all pulse samples were below 4.6 during both fermentation and refrigerated storage.


Since 2004, the Fiti initiative has economically empowered hundreds of women in East Africa by teaching them how to produce and sell probiotic yogurt containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1. As a result, Fiti probiotic yogurt was made accessible to vulnerable populations in East Africa who face malnutrition, infectious diseases and environmental toxins. Because of recent climatic changes, milk has become more expensive and inaccessible for local communities. Furthermore, this study found that black-eyed pea, pigeon pea, kabuli chickpea and desi chickpea can be viable and non-diary probiotic alternatives to the Fiti probiotic yogurt in Eastern Africa. This is also the first study of its kind to provide preliminary evidence showing pulses as non-dairy alternatives to Fiti probiotic yogurt.



The authors acknowledge Brescia University College at Western University, Ontario Canada for the use of the food science lab, and the lab equipment necessary to conduct this study. The authors also acknowledge the contribution of Western Heads East and Mikono Yetu for their consultation about the project, the Gregor Reid lab for providing the Fiti sachets, and Janhavi Patel for her research assistance.


Le, T. and Hekmat, S. (2020), "Development of pulse-based probiotics by fermentation using Fiti sachets for the developing world", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 50 No. 6, pp. 1109-1121.



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