Referring to it as an eyesore is an understatement; the sight of our local abattoirs usually makes me want to vomit and in a hurry to evade the market anytime I visit to buy meat. Often, I pay more than the meat costs because I am always in a hurry, unable to bargain and spend the time walking round the stalls to get a good bargain.
The general state of abattoirs in Lagos is disturbing. Improper handling, unhygienic processing and display of meat are common features of abattoirs in the state.
Despite the best efforts of the Lagos State Government, several abattoirs shy away from adopting standard hygienic practices in meat handling and processing.
Consequently, the risk of contaminated meat that is unfit for human consumption being sold to the populace is high.
Visits to slaughter houses and meat markets in Badagry, Igando, Ikotun and Alaba areas of the state showed that a large number of them are operating under unsanitary conditions.
Unhealthy practices noticed in some of the markets include slaughtering of meat on unhealthy floors, exposure of meat to flies and the elements, conveying of meat on motorcycles, clutching of meat to bare chest, and so on.
It is needless to say that these constitute health hazards and jeopardise the state’s aim to achieve Lagos Vision Zero, a transformational approach to ensuring health and safety in the state as is currently being championed by the Lagos State Safety Commission. It can also jeopardise the state government’s efforts to ensure Lagos achieves the status of a megacity.
In Alaba abattoir, one of the places visited, cow dung and effluent could be seen splattered on large swathes of the abattoir’s floor.
Miss. Yewande Alabi, a customer, expressed concern over the poor hygienic condition of the abattoir, describing it as an eyesore.
She said, “I wish I had a choice to buy meat somewhere else; the problem is that there is hardly any abattoir that you would get to that is not filthy.”
She stressed that, “It is a general problem; I think the government has to look into the conditions of abattoirs and promote healthy practices in meat markets in the country.”
In the same vein, a food vendor who craved anonymity said that most meat markets across the country lacked proper waste management and portable water supply.
Meanwhile, a chat with one of the butchers who craved anonymity blamed inadequate water supply, transportation and waste management as the greatest challenges facing the abattoir, noting that the butchers and meat sellers were trying their best to ensure they handle meat properly and hygienically.
He added, “I wish the government can construct cold rooms in our abattoirs to reduce wastages and preserve leftover meat.”
Explaining the rationale behind the practice of conveying meat on motorcycles, another meat seller blamed the high cost of renting meat vans.
Safety Record Newspaper recalls that in June 2017, the Nigeria Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) warned meat sellers against unhygienic slaughtering and processing of meat for consumption in dirty environments or exposing it to flies and other germs.
The Chairman of the Association, Dr. Omobolaji Alao, made the call during the Meat Hygiene Awareness Campaign held last year.
He said that consumption of such unhygienic meat often come with some health dangers as a number of diseases can be contacted if not properly handled.
“Improper handling result in Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Leptospirosis Salmonellosis (typhoid fever) among others.”
He lamented that Nigeria is the country with the fourth highest cases of tuberculosis in the world.
The chairman suggested that the meat produced for sale should be neatly packaged, protected from flies and buyers robbing them with hands.
“We appeal to butchers to desist from unwholesome means of slaughtering and processing of meat at abattoirs especially slaughtering of meat on bare floor,” he noted.
A safety and health professional, Mr Kalu Ottah, harped on the need for proper handling of meat to conform to international best practices in order to prevent harm to consumers.
He said, “The Codex Alimentarius is the internationally-recognised standard code of practice guideline for food production and safety. Their main goals are to protect the health of consumers and to promote fair practices in food trade.
“Meanwhile, SON (Standard Organization of Nigeria) has saddled MANCAP (Mandatory Conformity Assessment Program) with the responsibility of ensuring that all food products conform to NIS (Nigerian Industrial Standard).”
Ottah said unhygienic meat handling practices lead to several hazards to its consumers.
Highlighting the hazards, he said, “Physical hazards, which are visible to the eyes and may include sand, wood particle, metals which likely get into the product along the food chain.
“Chemical hazards, this may include grease, paints, and engine oil, which might get into the product along the food chain.
“Biological hazards, the underlisted micro-organisms are the causes of diseases, infections and sicknesses associated with fresh meat, fish and the likes.
“Staphylococcus Aureus is the bacteria which cause skin infection, boils, and pimples. Coliform is the bacteria found in the digestive tract of humans and animal waste. It may not cause any illness but its presence is an indication that pathogens-disease causing organisms are present.
“Escherichia Coli bacteria are harmless but its strains can cause diarrhea. Salmonella species, this bacterium has six sub-species and the most deadly of them is responsible for causing typhoid fever whose fall out is a consequence of eating contaminated food.”