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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Health Implications of Roadside SUYA

Written by: Muoka Chibuzor

Suya is a spicy skewered meat which is a popular food item in West Africa. Suya originated in the Northern parts of Nigeria, which is dominated by the Hausa and Fulani tribes. 
They call Suya “Agashe” and the dried version is called “Kilishi.” No wonder, suya is mostly sold in the southern part of Nigeria by the northerners. The sweetness of suya after preparation makes a lot of people always want to patronise the sellers.

The roadside suya came into existence as a result of Ignorance, coupled with the “it doesn’t matter” mentality from both the roadside suya vendor and consumer.

“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have time to find time for illness.”

Suya was given the name “Street food” because preparations and sales are often done in small stalls along local streets and most times under dubious and unwholesome hygienic conditions.

Health is wealth and should be guarded and given the highest priority. We consume various foods, including junks but the excesses and unsuitability of anything consumed can cause an upset or imbalance in the human homeostatic (internal) processes.

Based on observations, most roadside suya preparations are usually of the same content. They do not differ so much, so as to keep making the commodity easily affordable for all and available everywhere. Thereby attracting more customers.

A Typical Nigerian Roadside Suya

Constituents of an affordable roadside suya:
a) Skewer: This is the long pin of wood or metal for inserting the meat to hold it in place for roasting.

b) Meat: The Hausa/Fulani men can easily afford to provide cow meat (beef) rather than a ram or chicken meat. Thus cow meat (beef) is predominant.

c) Powdered Groundnut cake: It’s known as “kuli-kuli” in Nigeria and is the by – product obtained after extraction of oil from groundnut.

d) Spices: This includes; Alligator pepper. Maggi cube, Onions, Ginger etc.

e) Fruits and Vegetables: Tomatoes and Cabbage.

f) Vegetable oil: This is applied to the suya to make it more appealing for consumption and to increase the adherence of the groundnut cake and spices to the meat.

How Harmful is Roadside Suya to Consumers:
We would view the possible sources of health breach based on 3 aspects:
a) The Roadside
b) Personal Hygiene
c) Preparative Hygiene

1) The Roadside:
A road is a route or way between two places that has been paved or otherwise improved to facilitate land transportation. It was not meant for food preparation or as an alternative to a kitchen or restaurant (eatery).

The nature of Nigerian roads and the activities that go on in it abhors any form of primary food preparation which does not exclude Suya.

In Nigeria, most roadsides look totally unkempt due to the presence of refuse dumps, stagnant waters, dirty gutters etc. And they harbour different organisms, both micro and macro of varying sizes and capabilities.

An unkempt road in Nigeria
Suya prepared and sold in such an environment under the guise of “Street food” is a ticket to food poisoning. When the road is untarred, the level of dust, deposited on the street suya is unimaginable.

Now, looking at the perspective of vehicular emissions…
Motor vehicle emissions contribute to air pollution and are the major ingredient in the creation of smog in large cities.

Smog at Lagos
Vehicle emissions called exhaust gas is emitted as a result of the combustion of fuels such as gasoline, petrol, diesel fuel etc. These emissions are pushed into the atmosphere through an exhaust pipe and the closest ally to the roadsides are the roadside suya vendors.

Car Exhaust pipe emitting the Exhaust gas
Research has shown that the exhaust gas is composed of very harmful substances of which when inhaled or ingested can lead to health impairment and death. They include;

- Carbon monoxide (Co) = from incomplete fuel combustion.
- Sulphur Oxides (So2) = precursors of acidic rain.
- Nitrogen Oxides (No & No2) = they contribute to climate change.
- Hydrocarbon from unburnt fuel.
- Particulate matter (soot).
- Heavy metals (Arsenic (As), Cadmium (Cd), Lead (Pb) and Nickel (Ni).

When such emissions come in contact with the suya “Street food”, it would surely cause more harm than good to the human body system. Various forms of cancers are as a result of these toxic substances because they disrupt various biological processes in the human body.

2) Personal Hygiene:
It has been observed that 80% of every roadside suya vendor is a Hausa-Fulani man who cares less about the hygienic status of the suya but is totally interested only in their income for the day. Most times their appearance is unkempt and shabby. Based on the dirty clothes they put on during and after preparation.

Some of them put on bangles and ring 2-3 on their wrist and fingers respectively, while preparing the suya. Appearance means a lot and plays a great role in dictating whether one will accept something from you or not.

Hand preparation of Suya
The bothering question is, should such a person who does not understand the principles and ethics of personal hygiene/cleanliness be entrusted with what we eat?
Absolutely No! If only we won’t be carried away in the euphoria of the moment and the sweetness of the suya. We should bear in mind that such personalities should be avoided when purchasing what to eat.

3) Preparation Hygiene:
We already know that the roadside is not a suitable place to prepare suya. Investigations have shown that due to the distance between the road and water supply, the roadside suya vendors tend to indulge in water economization. Thereby reusing dirty water over and over again; especially in meat washing.

Water Economization
Most of the equipment used in preparation are rarely washed properly and are often times left in their roadside space after the day’s work. Some of their tables are homes for houseflies, they keep perching on everything kept on the table in every step of the preparation except at the roasting fire space.

Roadside Suya is normally sold wrapped in old newspapers gotten from God – knows – where; this is another source of contamination as newspapers picked from unclean environments can be used in dishing out the suya, especially at night without the consumer’s awareness.

It has also been discovered that the temperature used in suya production isn’t capable enough to eliminate various worms hidden inside the meat (beef). Tapeworm (Taenia saginata) has been found to survive those temperatures and thus infect humans upon ingestion of the worm infested suya due to undercooking.

Taenia saginata infection can come 
from eating raw beef.
Photo was taken by Carolyn Temanson
The powdered groundnut cake “Kuli-kuli” isn’t exempted as peasant processing and packing methods are still commonly adopted for “kuli-kuli” production. It’s normally carried in hand knotted thin polyethene bags.

Groundnut cake kept in polyethene bag
These groundnut cake have no label to indicate vital information such as name and address of the producers, nutritional content, and recommendations for storage and best-before-date for human consumption.

Despite the fact that groundnut and derivatives are highly prone to fungal and bacterial infestation of which are the precursors of food poisoning toxins.

The food additives used in the roadside suya “street food” could be adulterated (adulterated food additives) which can cause unimaginable harm to the body system, sometimes cases of diarrhoea arise.

Since we cannot attest to the kind of vegetable oil they use in preparation due to the absence of names on some of their vegetable oil containers, the use of vegetable oils containing cholesterol cannot be overruled.

Recall that cholesterol free vegetable oils are quite expensive and so as to make everything cheap for the roadside consumers and to maximise profit, the use of cheap commodities is welcomed. Cholesterol plays vital roles in increasing the chances of cardiovascular (Heart) diseases.

Also, the Onions, cabbage, ginger or tomatoes might be washed improperly or not at all before adding them to the suya already in the newspaper. Due to the “it doesn’t matter” mentality exhibited by most roadside suya vendors.

“The food you eat can be either the safest & most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison”Ann Wigmore.

Consequences of patronising Roadside Suya vendors:
In a nutshell, the consequence is FOOD POISONING which occurs when you eat or drink something containing harmful germs (bacteria, viruses or parasites).

In severe cases, there could be harm to various organs such as the liver, kidney, heart etc. and also various body systems such as the cardiovascular, nervous, reproductive systems.
The emergence of cancer is unavoidable if one continues to patronise roadside people who prepare food in dubious hygienic conditions. Some of these impacts may result in premature death.

You are what you eat. Do not eat in places or foods from places (Roadside) that can increase your chances of taking a sickbed at the hospital.
Don’t ever think that those currencies in your bank account are your wealth. Your true wealth is your HEALTH. Guard it jealously by listening to medical advice so as to live longer, healthier and happier.

1. Oko, J.O., Abriba, C., Audu, J.A., et al. 2015. "Bacteriological and Nutritional Analysis of groundnut cake in open market in Samaru, Zaria – Kaduna state". IJSTR., 4 (5):224.

2. Okpuzor. J., Okochi .V.I., Ogbunugafor. H.A., et al. 2009. "Estimation of Cholesterol Level in Different Brands of Vegetable Oils". Pakistan Journal of Nutrition, 8: 57-62.

3. Risctox (July 2012). “Chemicals harmful to the atmosphere”. Retrieved 27 Feb 2017.

4. Wikipedia (25 Feb 2017). "Road". Retrieved 27 Feb 2017.

5. Wikipedia (4 Jan 2017). “Suya”. Retrieved 27 Feb 2017.

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1 comment:


1) Its good to say your mind about what you have read. Please do make ethical comment(s).


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