Chicha Limeña punch fined for false cancer cure claims

Chicha Limeña manufactures a commercial form of Peruvian punch called chicha, and Hispanics who might have been purchasing this product in New York City may…

Peruvian punch company, Chicha Limeña, has been ordered to stop making claims their product cures cancer and diabetes. (Facebook/ChichaLimena)

Chicha Limeña manufactures a commercial form of Peruvian punch called chicha, and Hispanics who might have been purchasing this product in New York City may have to go without for a while.

The New York Attorney General contacted Chicha Limeña, instructing the distributor it can no longer make claims that one of the beverage’s ingredients–water, sugar cane, purple maize extract, pineapple, lemon, cinnamon and cloves–fights cancer and diabetes.

And while the commercial company can no longer make such health claims to customers, plenty of people, particularly those who grew up with the ancient beverage known as chicha morada, believe the punch does provide a number of health benefits.

For thousands of years, the people of the Andes have soaked purple corn to make a refreshing drink called chicha, which advocates say gets its health benefits from the high number of anthocyanins found in purple corn. Anthocyanins are the compounds in fruits and vegetables responsible for color, but recently they have been indicated as having benefits similar to antioxidants.

“Over 300 structurally distinct anthocyanins have been identified in nature. Anthocyanins are one class of flavonoid compounds, which are widely distributed plant polyphenols. Flavonols, flavan-3-ols, flavones, flavanones, and flavanonols are additional classes of flavonoids that differ in their oxidation state from the anthocyanins. Solutions of these compounds are colorless or pale yellow,” states Ronald E. Wrolstad, Ph.D. from Oregon State University.

“Some people believe that eventually we will have a recommended minimum daily requirement for these dietary antioxidants. Our knowledge of the anthocyanin and polyphenolic composition of many fruits, vegetables and cereals is incomplete, and little is known about the effects of processing and cooking on these substances. It is also uncertain how much of the particular flavonoids are absorbed into the bloodstream and get to various cells,” he added.

But despite all the unknowns, evidence suggests flavonoids and anthocyanins have positive effects on a person’s health.

So, while Chicha Limeña may not be able to claim its beverages can cure chronic illness, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t enjoy the Peruvian beverage. In fact, it is possible to make chicha at home as many Hispanic generations have before now. Here is a simple recipe from The Kitchn:

2 (15-ounce) bags dried purple corn (maíz morado)

Rind and core from one large, ripe pineapple

2 tart Granny Smith apples, quartered

1 heaping tablespoon whole cloves

4 Ceylon cinnamon sticks, broken (also called Mexican cinnamon or canela; can substitute 2 to 3 Cassia cinnamon sticks)

2 gallons + 1 cup water

Juice of 5 limes

Juice of 3 lemons

Sweetener of your choice: palm sugar, white sugar, simple syrup, agave nectar, honey, etc.

Boil purple corn, pineapple scraps, apples, cloves, cinnamon, and water in a large pot and then simmer for 45 minutes, covered. Uncover and then simmer for another 30 minutes. Allow the beverage to cool, strain out the solids, and then add lime and lemon juice as well as any desired garnishes.