NEWS ANALYSIS: How hygienic is meat from Nigeria’s abattoirs?
…Asks Okon Okon, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The surroundings of most abattoirs across the country have been a source of worry to many concerned citizens, particularly because of its negative implications on the wholesomeness of meat sold in the slaughterhouses.
Empirical studies of the slaughterhouses have shown that a large number of the meat markets lacked basic facilities and were operating under insanitary conditions.
For instance, the Mararaba abattoir, a major meat market in Nasarawa State, is a typical example of busy abattoirs with filthy environment.
Mr Victor Ike, a customer, who expressed concern over the poor sanitary conditions of the Mararaba abattoir, described the state of the slaughterhouse as an eyesore.
His words: “I have been to several abattoirs across the country because of my frequent transfers from one place to the other. What I can say is that the Mararaba abattoir and several other slaughterhouses across the country need urgent of restructuring.’’
Ike, who also observed the apathy of most butchers to the cleanliness of the Mararaba abattoir, underscored the need to ensure high level of food safety so as to prevent meat consumers from contracting diseases through the meat.
He, therefore, appealed to the Nasarawa State Government to intervene and urgently restructure the meat market by setting up a task force to enforce sanitation regulations.
Ike also urged the Federal Government to look into the conditions of abattoirs and meat markets across the nation.
He stressed that the health challenges facing the citizens could worsen if the authorities failed to restructure the management and operations of the abattoirs on time.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Eunice Uweh, a food seller, said that most meat markets across the country lacked basic amenities like potable water supply and functional drainage systems.
“Virtually all the meat markets have poor solid waste management practices, as heaps of refuse litter their surroundings; this is an eyesore since it is not only Nigerians patronise the markets.
“I will say that this is one of the important areas where environmental agencies should focus their work on; they should sensitise operators of the slaughterhouses to the need to adopt good sanitation practices.
“Abattoir managers should also be mobilised to promote hygienic environment in the abattoirs so as to avoid the outbreak of diseases.
“On second thought, I am now a bit more comfortable to patronise the Mararaba abattoir because of the new boreholes supplying water for its operations, unlike what happened in the past,’’ Uweh said.
Mr Ndala Ibrahim, Chairman of the Mararaba abattoir branch of the Butchers Association, thanked God and Rep. Gaza Gbefwi, a member of the House of Representatives representing Karu/Keffi/Kokona Federal Constituency, for the water supply project.
He said that the butchers were hitherto using water from an unknown source, which passed through a channel that was adjacent to the abattoir, to wash their meat.
“Actually, for over two years, we have been having serious water problems but now, we thank God for the support of Honourable Gaza Gbefwi, our representative in the House of Representatives, who donated four boreholes to us.
“We are no longer using water from a nearby stream; we are now getting water from the four boreholes that are working every day,’’ he said.
However, Ibrahim appealed to the relevant authorities to establish cold rooms in abattoirs across the country to preserve leftover meat and reduce wastages.
Also speaking, Alhaji Umar Bayawa, the Financial Secretary of the Butchers Association, called for support from relevant authorities for the efforts to connect the Mararaba abattoir to the electricity mains to reduce the operational costs.
He also said that that the provision of electricity in the abattoir would also ensure regular pumping of water from the boreholes to wash the butchers’ meat.
Bayawa noted that the butchers currently spent an average of N5, 000 daily to fuel generators to pump water from the boreholes, adding that the cost was eating into their profits.
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Mr Victor Bassey, an environmentalist, said that most abattoirs across the country, particularly those sited in the rural areas, were operating under unhygienic and sub-standard conditions.
“Most meat markets in the rural areas and even those in some urban centres lacked the basic requirements of a functional abattoir, as stipulated in the Policy Guidelines on Market and Abattoir Sanitation,’’ he said.
Bassey underscored the need to regulate the operations of the abattoirs and compel them to meet the standards which were stipulated in the policy guidelines.
“This will go a long way to reduce sicknesses that could be linked to the filthy environment of the abattoirs.
“The poor state of our nation’s abattoirs, the ineffective meat assessment services and the risks of consuming harmful meat ought to be fundamental issues of public concern,’’ he said.
Speaking on the mode of meat transportation, Bassey stressed the need for the government to provide abattoirs with vehicles.
He said that the mode of transporting meat from the abattoir to selling points was defective and could trigger an outbreak of diseases.
Besides, Bassey said that tangible efforts should be made to jettison the habit of using old, discarded tyres as roasting materials for animals in some abattoirs, insisting that the practice was extremely noxious.
According to him, a tyre has a composition of carbon black, zinc oxide, wax, sulphur tonic and other materials which can pose serious health hazards to people and the environment.
He, therefore, called for the introduction of appropriate laws that would prohibit local butchers from using tyres as animal roasting materials.
Mr Vincent Ikara, a biology teacher, underscored the need for the health authorities to deploy certified veterinarians to abattoirs across the country to inspect animals before and after slaughtering.
He said that the policy would ensure that infected or diseased animals were not slaughtered and prepared for human consumption.
“Government at all levels should ensure that the attainment of certain standards as a prerequisite for the licensing of any slaughterhouse or meat market is duly enforced.
“The preconditions should include proper sanitation as well as the acquisition of good meat processing and storage facilities,’’ Ikara added. (NANFeatures)