Suya, the very popular skewered meat which is known throughout Nigeria and other West African countries, is also called kilishi when dried. The thin sliced meat is usually seasoned with salt, pepper vegetable oil and other flavorings and is tendered by barbecuing and this process of softening using smoky flame is the unhealthy part of Suya that we want to talk about in this article.
1. Unhealthy Environments For Preparing Suya
In Nigeria, 98% of Suya spots are located in dirty environments with poor hygiene. Just like they don’t bath often, the people making it do not always clean the meat properly before barbecuing it as they seem not to care or have limited water to wash the meat as many times as needed. Also, they use stale ingredients and sometimes meat that has overstayed in the fridge for this snack and only very sensitive customers would notice this trick.
2. Suya and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), also called polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons are a group of more than 100 different chemicals that are released from burning coal, oil, gasoline, trash, tobacco, wood, or other organic substances such as charcoal-broiled meat. Cigarette is said to contain PAHs that is why they are rated as killers. These same chemicals are contained in the burning wood and charcoal used to cook Suya and are absorbed by the meat as well. PAHs when consumed can cause the following:
1. Human carcinogens.
2. Chemical mutagens (agent that changes the genetic materials)
3. High prenatal exposure to PAH is associated with lower IQ and asthma in children.
3. Potential Medium For Breeding/Contacting Zoonotic Diseases
Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be passed between animals and humans, e.g Ebola. Although bats and monkeys are hardly used for Suyas, no one knows which other animal has such dreaded viruses in it, waiting to be transferred to humans. Suya meat is generally half-cooked and when not properly washed, it is taken into the fire with blood thereby increasing the chances of transferring not only germs but zoonotic diseases.
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4. Contraction Of Taenia Saginata (Beef Tapeworm)
Humans can easily get infected by consuming under-cooked beef. Taenia saginata is a beef worm that grows in the infected without obvious symptoms until it gets to the critical stage. In the later stages of contracting this zoonotic disease symptoms include weight loss, dizziness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, constipation, chronic indigestion, and loss of appetite. Heavy infections may cause intestinal obstruction in humans which can be alleviated by surgery. So why go through all of these just for the love of suya?
5. Other Diseases
Leptospirosis, Brucellosis, Bubonic Plaque and Salmonellosis among others are diseases that can be gotten from eating suya. Some zoonotic diseases can be passed from the host animal to humans directly while others can be passed from consuming their products such as meat and milk.
Check out details in the chart below.
Suya no doubt is a delicious delicacy that is had to say NO to, but if cooked carelessly, might cost you more than you bargained for. It is advised to cook/heat the Suya meat to a safe internal temperature around 80 degrees Celsius or more. Avoid adding plastics or fuels such as kerosene to the fire to make it burn better. However, cook with moderate heat and a clean environment and you will enjoy your Suya meat without fear of future hazards.