2 June 2012

Tanzania: Poor Meat Handling Endangers Health

Sumbawanga — DISREGARD for proper hygiene in abattoirs contributes to persistent health complications, experts have warned.

Besides, long hours of transportation of animals and the immediate painful slaughter, harden the glycogen reserve in the animals' body. Glycogen is the animal protein that the human body absorbs. Rough handling of animals before slaughter produces insulin that hardens glycogen and damages the tenderness of the protein.

Dr Engelbert Bilashoboka, the Factory Operations Manager of Sumbawanga Agricultural and Animal Food Industries (SAAFI) in Rukwa Region, has cautioned against careless handling of animals heading for slaughter saying their skin should never come into contact with meat.

"Different chemicals, some of them poisonous, are applied on the animals to control pests including ticks. Livestock keepers either use spray guns or take their herds to cattle dips. These (chemicals) remain on the skin of the animal and can easily penetrate into its protein, which is harmful to consumers," Dr Bilashoboka said.

The poisonous substance, he added, has long persistent effect and may cause damage to the liver and kidneys. Other cases include dizziness, sudden collapse, blood cancer, loss of weight and vomiting.

Dr Bilashoboka stressed on cleanliness in slaughter houses saying dirty floors sometimes mopped up with unclean water and piled with chunks of meat, further increased chances for consumers to fall sick.

"Some of the diseases can be avoided. Contaminated water, for example, carries salmonella bacteria that cause typhoid," he explained. On his part, the Factory Manager Mr Damian Masatila said transportation of animals on lorries, especially across rough roads like the one between Sumbawanga and Tunduma was not a viable option.

"There are special train wagons for ferrying cattle to distant destinations. Locomotives are more convenient, less risky and faster compared to trucks. Distressing animals during transportation is inappropriate," Mr Masatila said.

Mr Andrew Sikazwe who owns a butcher in Sumbawanga said the small abattoir managed by the district council did not meet standards, as animals were skinned on the floor while meat was transported in not well maintained vehicles.

"Both meat dealers and consumers overlook the safety of meat. We (dealers) have raised concern on the squalid condition of slaughter houses in the district but all in vain," Mr Sikazwe said. Former Kwela MP in Rukwa Region, Dr Chrisant Mzindakaya who is also the proprietor of SAAFI, challenged investors to focus on the safety of consumers rather than money only.

"We must not ignore the health of meat consumers. Construction of proper and well maintained slaughter houses do not require huge capital," Dr Mzindakaya observed.

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