‘How Suya lovers are exposed to cancer-causing compounds’

Suya is ready.... a suya joint at Ladipo market                                                                                                                                                       PHOTO: TAYO OREDOLA

Suya is ready…. a suya joint at Ladipo market PHOTO: TAYO OREDOLA

THE debate on the health issues regarding the consumption of suya, a traditional delicacy of skewed meat, has again drawn the attention of health experts.

Experts have explained that many suya sellers make their suya by burning all sorts of materials, such as firewood and charcoal to make their fire, while plastics and kerosene are used as well to make their ember burn brighter in order to cook the meat.

This process exposes the meat to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a chemical compound that poses as risk factor to smokers.

Also, reports have it that meat cooked over open flames often causes the formation of toxic compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are carcinogenic (cancer causing compounds).

This spicy delicacy has defied even racial boundaries, and is enjoyed by almost everybody, young and old.

Referred to as ‘chichinga’ in neighboring Ghana, this street fast food is consumed in many West African countries.
In Nigeria, mostly the Hausa people of the north prepare it, and they are called ‘mai suya’.

The enterprise has acquired significant developments over the years, with suya joints found almost at vantage places, pubs, and beer bars especially at nights.

Speaking with one mai suya at the Ladipo market on the Oshodi- Isolo expressway in Lagos, about conditions under which the suya is prepared, Ibrahim Sani told The Guardian that the meat is prepared under hygienic conditions.

Speaking in Hausa, he said that most of them buy meat and prepare it at the abattoir. He cited the instance where more than four people share a ram depending on their financial capacity.

Sani also said he marinates the meat with the following ingredient, “Maggi star, shear butter, dry grounded pepper, onions and cabbage”, but individuals have their various spices for marinating, he added.

When The Guardian challenged him to the use of non-food grade additives, he debunked this, saying for the past six years of doing the suya business; he has never added anything not edible, though he cannot vouch for other sellers.

In an interview with Dr. Folake Samuel of the Department of Human Nutrition of the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, she said suya is meat and can be enjoyed just like any other meal, however, the conditions of hygiene by the makers is the issue.

According to her, the issue of the type of meat used is another downside of the roadside fast food. It becomes difficult to ascertain weather the meat they use is veterinary approved.

Also, “originally traditional spices are used in its preparation”, but of recent there are concerns about the use of non – food grade additives which poses dangers to consumers, she added.

Samuel told The Guardian that people have concerns over the way it is produced, and that roasting exposes the meat to carcinogens (cancer causing compounds).

Speaking with another Chief Nursing Officer from the Kajola Primary Health Center in Lagos who pleaded anonymity, she told The Guardian, “there are many hazards to the improper cooking of meat”.

And most of these mai suya subject the meat to improper cooking and blood spots are found on the meat even after roasting sometimes.

Most of these suya joints are located at unhygienic places, with most close to gutters and dirty environments she cited, and all these poor sanitation can even expose consumers to ailments like diarrhea, typhoid, hepatitis B and C among others.

She further explained that excess intake of it poses threats like obesity and heart disease among others.

Evidently, when The Guardian visited another suya joint along the old Ojo road in Mazamaza in Lagos, our correspondent observed that the meat was kept in a black polythene bag on the floor close to the gutter where the joint was situated, and the seller brought fresh lean meat from the black polythene to be marinated with an unknown spice also in a transparent polythene before roasting. The mai suya declined to speak with our correspondent when he was approached.

Consumers of it can even be affected with zoonotic diseases that can be passed from animals to humans, experts say.



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