A few days ago, Nigerians were cautioned against the consumption of hides (ponmo), smoked meat and bush meat because they pose serious risk until the situation is brought under control. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development gave the warning on the outbreak of Anthrax in some neighbouring countries within the West African sub-region. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, informed that the outbreak was first recorded in northern Ghana bordering Burkina Faso and Togo putting the whole sub-region at risk.
Umakhihe said, “The disease, which has claimed some lives, is a bacterial disease that affects both animals and man that is, a zoonotic disease. Anthrax spores are naturally found in the soil and commonly affect domestic and wild animals. People can get infected with Anthrax spores if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products. However, Anthrax is not a contagious disease and so, one cannot get it by coming in close contact with an infected person. Signs of anthrax are flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever, muscle aches and if not diagnosed and treated early, could lead to pneumonia, severe lung problems, difficulty in breathing, shock and death”, the statement read in part.
The ministry further warned the general public against closeness to non-vaccinated animals with Anthrax as it can easily be transmitted to man through the inhalation of Anthrax spores including consumption of contaminated/Infected animal products, such as hides and skin, meat or milk. Meanwhile, media reports have it that ‘ponmo’, is one of the favourite meat parts that Nigerians love to eat. According to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the general public should be careful of the consumption of ponmo. A recent statement signed by the NAFDAC Director-General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, warned Nigerians against indiscriminate ponmo consumption for the following seven reasons:
- Most of these animal hides are meant for industrial use.
- Some of the animal hides are sometimes pre-treated with industrial chemicals, which are not of food grade and are toxic and injurious to human health.
- Some companies legally import hides from countries such as Lebanon and Turkey, while majority of the product are smuggled into the country through the porous borders.
- The imported animal hides are meant for industrial use by leather industries for the manufacturing of items such as shoes, bags, belts and others.
- Health hazards inherent in the consumption of such animal hides include risk of liver, kidney and heart damage, increased risk of Aplastic anaemia, central nervous system toxicity, cancer and more.
- Livestock farmers are advised to note that industrial animal hides could not be used in the manufacture of animal feed.
- Associated chemicals are generally stored in the tissues of animals that are fed with feed made with industrial animal hides and will eventually end up in humans when consumed, with the attendant effects.