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Meat: Why you should think before you eat

By Flavia Nassaka

Eating Unhygienic meat can cause brucellosis, Hepatitis B, C and even cancer

Beef is not only delicious but has plenty of nutritional value though it’s often labeled unhealthy food. It is a rich source of protein, which the body needs to build muscle, maintain organs and regenerate skin, hair and nails. It’s also a good source of minerals like zinc, iron, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and copper. Beef also supplies the body with vitamins B12, B6 and riboflavin, among others.

More than 800 cows are estimated to be slaughtered every day in Kampala. Goats, sheep and pigs are slaughtered too, an indicator that people in Kampala consume a lot of meat. But, the entire Kampala has only two comprehensive abattoirs that cut and slaughter meat for the public that is Uganda Meat Industries, Kampala and City Abattoir, Kampala. This means that most of the meat we consume is either slaughtered at market slaughter slabs or even people’s homes.

“75% of slaughtering slabs available have no facilities for slaughtering animals off ground, or other basic facilities such as water supply and refrigeration” said Dr. Bright Rwamirama , the state minister for Animal Industry while addressing stakeholders about the upcoming African Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE2014) to be hosted in Uganda.

This raises a question regarding whether one should trust the meat bought from these slaughterhouses, market stalls or roadside kiosks.

What you are at risk of?

Some of the meat is kept in unhygienic conditions and the situation worsens on a bad day where it has to stay overnight and develop that foul smell. In fact I don’t remember any time when I’ve gone to buy meat and the butcher washes hands before serving me. There are only a few butcheries that have running water and refrigeration facilities any way.

Disinfection is rarely done therefore the meat is not effectively protected from flies and dust. These inappropriate processing methods that are used in storage and holding of meat as well as the poor personal hygiene of the handlers are some of the main causes of contamination of meats leading to foodborne illnesses,” explains Dr. Abbey Katuuza, a veterinary officer at Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA).

According to Katuuza, meat can be chemically contaminated especially when the butchery is on the road side where there’s exposure to motor vehicle exhaust gases that pollute the environment with lead. Excess lead causes serious damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells. Young children, infants and expectant mothers are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning.

Animals slaughtered and transported under unhygienic conditions especially pork stand a risk of contracting epilepsy or running mad among other related ailments as the doctor warns that pork contains tape worms which cause epilepsy when consumed without excellent preparation.

Dr. Adnan Singh a nutritionist at International Hospital Kampala explains that although diarrhoea is the most common symptom of food-borne illness, serious consequences include kidney and liver failure, brain and neural disorders among others.

He says most cases of food contamination are from common food bacteria such as Staphylococcus spp, Streptococcus spp, and Salmonella spp.

Singh says that however much meat can be boiled there are some parasites and brucellosis that can affect consumers.

Grilled Meat

Barbecue or mchomo is one thing enjoyed by people of all walks ranging from the corporate high end class to the lowest in society because grilling is fun, affordable and makes meat taste great. Amidst all this, you might not be thinking of what health risks barbecuing is exposing you to.

Dr. singh warns us against grilled meat especially when prepared and handled under unhygienic conditions because of the possibility of this meat containing carcinogens-cancer-causing elements. When the meat is grilled, it produces chemicals known as Heterocyclic amines (HCAs), and exposure to HCAs can cause cancer. The longer the meat is grilled, the more HCAs produced.

Also, barbecue smoke contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), toxic chemicals that can damage your lungs. As meat cooks, drippings of fat hit the ashes or gases and create PAHs, which gust into the air. As a result these toxins are inhaled and coat on the lungs.

Marinating the meat with herbs such as rosemary and pepper or smothering with thick marinades can help reduce the creation of carcinogens by grilling up to 96%. A marinade also reduces dripping fat and smoke and helps prevent char, thereby lowering the amount of the two threats.

Once one realizes that has eaten contaminated food by noticing symptoms such as vomiting, fatigue and stomach ache, it is not advisable to treat oneself but rather go to the nearest health Centre. The first aid may be to drink a lot of fluids, then treatment.

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