Meat Safety And Public Health


The meat inspection law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stipulates that animals billed for slaughter must be inspected, before and after slaughtering. For this reason, various state governments deploy certain number of veterinary officers and animal workers to abattoirs to ensure that standards for animal slaughtering and processing are strictly adhered to.
Specifically, these veterinary officers and animal workers are to educate meat handlers in the abattoirs on the need for hygiene in their work place. The presence of these officers indicates that slaughter slabs and abattoirs which are not compliant with the relevant laws governing meat slaughtering are liable to closure. This makes animal slaughtering and processing a serious state issue that must emphasize environmental hygiene and processing protection.
Across the various states of the federation, roasting animals in an open fire is basically the major process by which hairs on the skin of slaughtered animals are removed. Analysts believe that this method is justified for its ability to maintain the carcass hide for consumption as well as evoke flavours in the meat which are acceptable to consumers. However, this is only achievable through the use of firewoods as fuel.
Unfortunately, the relative scarcity of fire woods in many parts of the country, and the season of rains which makes it difficult for the firewoods to freely burn as usual, have led to the choice of scrap car tyres as fuel for roasting consumable animals. How healthy it is to both the surrounding environment as well as human beings who inhale the smoke and eat the meat it is used to process, however, remains a question that must not be treated with levity.
From a study on implication of roasting goats with tyre on human health and the environment, it was revealed that tyre has 45.49, 40, 0.23 and 1.17% composition for carbon black, zinc oxide wax and sulphur toxic materials which could pose serious health threats to human beings and the environment. Therefore, for food safety and public health, the issue of chemical contamination of meat through the use of scrap tyre for meat singeing must be addressed to save unsuspecting consumers from possible exposure to ingestion of heavy metals.
Just last year, the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Toyin Suarau, shut down the cow skin section of Oko-Oba abattoir and lairage complex in Agege. According to Suarau, the closure of the ‘ponmo’ section and dislodgment of the processors became necessary because of the health hazards inherent in the unhealthy processing of ‘ponmo’.
The animal skin processors, in all the neighbourhood abattoirs in Nigeria, are known to use heaps of burning tyres in the processing of the skin, thereby emitting thick toxic smoke into the air, endangering the health and lives of both the processors and those of the residents of the adjourning neighbourhoods.
At various points in time, different governments in power had raised voice against the use of tyre to process animal skin in abattoirs, highlighting its healthy implication from both inhalation and outright consumption of the product prepared through this means. The return to this unhygienic method of processing animal meat in abattoirs leaves much to be desired.
Here in Rivers State, the Sole Administrator of Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) Mr. Felix Obuah, earlier in the year, vowed to bring to book those behind burning of tyres in the State. He announced a ban on the burning of tyres as part of the measures to check the black soot pollution experienced around Port Harcourt metropolis.
However, while it is important to commend the RIWAMA boss over his stern approach to check tyre burning in the State, it is advisable to show more proactiveness in abattoir where the public would not have to sniff from tyre burning. In as much as it is an open practice, the seriousness of the government can best be demonstrated by making its presence visible at the place where it is practiced with impunity.
I think that an appropriate law that can check the activities of our local butchers in this regard has become imperative.


Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi