By Martins Ifijeh
Medical experts believe that eating imported frozen poultry products can be a silent killer, as its negative effects does not present symptoms, sometimes, even for prolonged periods.
The experts explain that such food, has formalin, a chemical used to embalm corpse and other dangerous substances that increase chances of having terminal diseases.
According to their findings, about 50 million Nigerians eat imported chicken, turkey and fishes almost on a daily basis, adding that this was not a good news for the country and its ailing economy.
Imported poultry products are poisonous
Medical experts have noted that these imported products are poisonous because smugglers use formalin, to preserve and keep them fresh from neighboring countries till it gets to Nigeria. Formalin is a cancer causing chemical capable of initiating liver and kidney diseases.
A Veterinary Doctor, Tito Adebanjo, explained that the hazards caused by imported frozen foods to public health cannot be over emphasized, since some of the chemicals used in the preservation of the animals could form residues in humans and eventually result in public health hazards.
“There is little or no mechanism at our sea ports to screen or detect the residues of chemicals used in frozen meat being imported to Nigeria, yet the foods find their way to our markets for consumption. Even the ones produced locally, no one really tests them, let alone find out the level of drug residues in them before they are sold to unwary members of the public,” he stated.
He explained that the chemicals can be divided into two: those added to animals’ feeds or injected in them and the preservatives used on the animals’ meat after they are slaughtered. “Some of these chemicals can predispose one to cancer or cause hypersensitive reactions and antibiotic resistance in man. The relentless drive to produce more animals, by some farmers – either abroad or locally – in less time at lower cost, is responsible for the routine and indiscriminate use of antimicrobial drugs in animal, including arsenicals, antibiotics, and other compounds.
“The concern, therefore, beside the effects on the livestock industry, is the fact that many analogues of these antibiotics are used in disease management in humans and could consequently add to the development of cross-resistance to antimicrobials administered in human health.
“Though the fact that the public may not be aware of the magnitude of the health hazards resulting from consuming meat containing drug residue, does not imply the adverse effects should not be of serious concern. What often happens is that the chemicals used in the preservation of these foods build up and serve as free agents in the body. Besides, they subsequently break the body down through one disease or another.
“Many a time, drug withdrawal periods are not observed or there is over-dosage or under-dosage of these chemicals when used by quacks. The drugs, therefore, accumulate in the meat obtained from such animals. Possible bioaccumulation occurs when these residues present in the animal tissues accumulate continuously over the lifespan of the individuals through prolonged consumption. This is of potential concern in Nigeria where meat animals constitute major source of animal protein,” the veterinary doctor, who specialises in food hygiene, food safety and zoonoses, added.
Imported poultry products has high level of bacteria
The Poultry Association of Nigeria also kicks. The group, through its President, Dr. Ayoola Oduntan, urged the Federal Government to curb the menace, adding that the smuggled chicken is responsible for several health issues experienced in the country, due to the presence of high level of bacteria in the chicken coupled with high toxic chemical that are used to preserve it just to ensure it gets to the market at cheaper rate.
Similarly, former Chairman, Poultry Farmers Association of Nigeria, Oyo State, Mr. John Olateru explained that when the cold chain is broken, the nutrient drastically reduced. “That is why they use the chemical used in preserving corpses to preserve the frozen chicken. In spite of this, you see some of the chicken already decomposed and our people still buy them. Our people don’t know the implication of this.
“Many even see it as a way to show off or prove that their economic status has improved, hence the need to abandon fish, the food of the poor, for imported turkey and chicken. You would feel ashamed for the ignorance of our people at social functions, as they eat these foods to their peril. Locally produced turkeys or chickens are fresh; no preservatives are used. They are only refrigerated and kept in good sanitary conditions, because it is expected that within two or three days they would have been bought and consumed,” he said.
If demands increase, operators will be encouraged
An investment analyst, Mr. John Ayodele, explained that the fact that the foods were smuggled and massively consumed indicates that there was a wide gap in the local market that needs to be bridged.
According to him, that gap is not as a result of inefficiencies of poultry owners but due to lack of patronage on the part of the consumers. “Operators have invested in slaughtering and de-feathering machinery, packaging and storage facilities as well as marketing strategies to convince Nigerians to patronise their safer and more nutritious products.
“This is a viable money making idea for Nigerians, especially the ones in diaspora seeking viable businesses to set up in Nigeria. Home based Nigerians looking for what to do in retirement can also consider this business. The unemployed Nigerian graduate, who can put on his thinking cap, can also set up in this business, starting small,” he said.
Ayodele added that Nigeria has no business importing frozen poultry, which can easily be produced at home to provide employment and create wealth for her citizens. “If patronized, operators can reduce the unemployment rate by over two million in one month and that will just be the beginning in Nigeria,” he added.
Also, an economist, Dr. Olusola Owoeye, explained that Nigerian consumption was put at 1.5 million tonnes, while production was estimated to be about 350,000 million tones, leaving a demand and supply gap of 1.2million tones, which is met through smuggling.
He stated that to fully utilise the balance of the industry’s installed capacity of additional 350,000 million tones will translate to significant benefits through more job creations in form of 350,000 new jobs in maize production, 75,000 new jobs in processing and 500,000 new jobs in ancillary raw materials, products and services.
“Reducing smuggling by just 30 percent would result in the creation of about one million jobs. The future of the Nigerian poultry industry hinges delicately on firm decisions on the part of the policy makers to reverse the current unwholesome trends that tend to tilt the balance more in favour of smugglers while putting the local producers in jeopardy. The investments of local producers need urgent safeguard and support that would enable them to remain competitive in the face of smugglers onslaught,” he warned.