Naija Foodie Update

FOODIE NAIJA UPDATE (THE CHALLENGES OF FOOD SAFETY IN THE NIGERIAN MEAT INDUSTRY)

Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) say Nigerians consume about 360,000 tonnes of beef yearly.
This conservative figure is projected
to rise to 1.3 million tonnes per year by 2050, some 260% increase.

In 2008, while he was still a veterinary medicine undergraduate, Okan
Hembel bought a cow hump at the local market in Jalingo,
Taraba State.
He took this priced cut home in the hope of preparing a delicious meat dish for dinner. Instead of
ending in the pot, the whole hump was
thrown away.

“When I got home, I sliced the meat and I saw a deposit of
antibiotics inside,” Hembel recalled. “There is a particular antibiotic drug
which veterinary doctors administer to
animals. It is whitish in colour. It’s called PenStrep. Either of
these two antibiotics was responsible for that deposit.”

Antibiotics are used for controlling the growth and spread of harmful germs, both in humans and animals. They are widely used by
poultry farmers to enhance growth rates
and boost egg production. While
antibiotics are quite beneficial for raising disease-free animals
in record time, they can be hazardous when meat from
animals that have
high levels of antibiotics is consumed.

To prevent this from happening, farmers are mandated by
regulators to adhere strictly to the withdrawal period of veterinary drugs before selling their animals. The
withdrawal period is the time frame between the last dose of antibiotics given to animals and the consumption
of such animals or food derived from them such as milk or eggs.

Hence, the withdrawal period allows the animal’s system to rid itself of the residue of these veterinary drugs.
Although some farmers, especially small-holders do not
observe these
instructions, this is not the biggest challenge in the use of antibiotics.

Whenever farmers
misuse antibiotics either by using less
than is recommended or more, it can cause germs to develop
genes that resist the effect of these drugs.
When this happens, the drugs become
ineffective at killing germs which, in turn, results in antibiotics
resistance in humans.
“It has been discovered that
there’s transference of resistant genes
from animal to human microbiota,” Adebisi Agboola, an
animal scientist at the University of Ibadan says.

“Humans are the consumers of these
animal products [and] with the
residual effects of antibiotics, when
people take antibiotics for
common infections, it doesn’t work. That
becomes a problem and because of that, the European Union (EU) has banned the use of antibiotics as
growth promoters in animals since 2006.

The health risk of using antibiotics (in animals) is very high. ”Agboola disclosed that while Nigeria is yet to ban the use of
antibiotics in animal production, there is a gradual move by
professional institutions to
induce farmers to embrace alternatives
like prebiotics and probiotics. One of such institutions is the Nigerian Institute for Animal Science (NIAS), which is coming up with a range of policies and
regulations that will ensure that farmers comply with best practices in animal husbandry.

Due to prevailing
environmental conditions, such
as high humidity and poor sanitation in
Nigeria, which predisposes animals to germs, eliminating the use of antibiotics may not be possible.
Besides the indiscriminate use of
antibiotics, the rearing, sale and
slaughter of cattle are also processes that throw up challenges that could also pose health hazards to
people who consume meat products.

In Tambuwal, a local government area in Sokoto State, Juli
Mohammado rears cows for sale across
Nigeria. EveryMonday, he sells
about 150 cows to abattoirs and markets as far as Lagos. He said the cows sometimes
suffer from foot and mouth disease, a viral
disease that is common in cattle.
To prevent his cows from becoming ill, Mohammado vaccinates them
against infectious diseases from time
to time.

“I have doctors from the veterinary [clinic] who come to treat the cows when they are sick. Most of
the treatments are through injections,” he said. At the Sokoto Modern Abattoir,
the facilities are not necessarily top-tier, but they are a clear
improvement upon what is available in
Tambuwal. Nevertheless, the
conditions are still quite dismal.

Suraju Muritala works as a veterinary inspector at the
abattoir. His team of vet doctors check the
animals to ensure that zoonotic
diseases such as tuberculosis and
brucellosis are not allowed to spread. During inspection, the animals are also
quarantined for 24 hours before they are slaughtered.

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