BY KIKIOPE OLUWARORE
Have you ever been to the market to buy beef (commonly called ‘meat’ in Nigeria) or inu eran (offal) or specifically, fuku (lung)? And at the meat seller’s place to buy fuku, you observed that the fuku had an unusual physical appearance? Like you observed some dark to grayish-white areas and elevations which may be protruding out of the surface of the fuku itself? And then the meat seller, in a bid to convince you that the meat is safe, cuts a little piece and then pops into his/her mouth to chew? Or, maybe you just love the feel of “strong, crunchy” fuku that will last longer in your mouth like chewing-gum?
Yes! Then you know what this is about… its Fuku Elegusi!
A lot of people from the Yoruba tribe in south-western Nigeria would instantly recognize the common phrase Fuku Elegusi. This would especially be familiar for those who live in or frequently visit rural and peri-urban meat sellers in large rural markets, as it is commonly sold among beef and inu eran sellers.
It is even considered a delicacy for some sellers and consumers, as it is said to “last longer in the mouth” as opposed to the normal (and healthy) lung that has a shorter chewing time due to its softer spongy consistency. Recognising this preference, some butchers attract their customers telling them that they have the “special delicacy” — fuku elegusi.
Alas, Fuku Elegusi is ACTUALLY a great health hazard for those who come in contact with it, chew it, purchase it and cook for consumption. In fact, in standard developed countries and settings, the animal from which such fuku was harvested from for sale should be completely destroyed and disposed of. The animal should never be slaughtered for public and human consumption.
But let’s come back to our reality in Nigeria…
What is Fuku elegusi?
Fuku Elegusi is the visibly infected parts of a lung that has been previously infected with Tuberculosis disease. It is usually harvested for public sale and consumption from a butchered animal that had a chronic case of tuberculosis. Therefore, consumption of Fuku Elegusi provides a high, direct risk of getting infected with Tuberculosis disease.
We should know that Tuberculosis (TB) is still a disease of high global priority due to its high prevalence and incidence worldwide, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Also, the disease is common as a co-infection in people living with HIV and those with low body immunity. Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) is infection with tuberculosis that is specific to the bovine specie (cattle). It is also a disease of high prevalence with great importance in animal health and public health in Nigeria.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has mentioned that in Nigeria, there is high prevalence of TB in humans. It further stated that in 2014, about 160,000 people in Nigeria died from TB while 570,000 were living with TB. Now, the percentage of human TB infections that is attributable to Bovine TB is largely unknown. However, it is important to note that Bovine TB (TB transmitted form cattle to humans) and Human TB (TB transmitted between humans) have the same clinical signs and manifestation. And once any tuberculosis infection is established in the body of an animal or human, it spreads to infect sites and organs in the body such as include lungs, liver, kidney and intestines. This is the reason why eating such meat and offal that is infected with tuberculosis (including Fuku Elegusi) is very dangerous to our health.
In her peer-reviewed research article, Dr Dupe Hambolu corroborates this high-risk behaviour of eating Fuku Elegusi amongst meat handlers and she interviewed butchers in Oko-Oba Abattoir in Lagos State. She found out that almost a quarter of the study participants actively ate Fuku Elegusi and more than 70% of the study participants did not know that eating Fuku Elegusi could be a source of Bovine TB in humans. It is important to note here that Lagos is one of the most urban and metropolitan cities in Nigeria. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that these unhealthy acts and lack of knowledge on Fuku Elegusi is even more practised as a norm in the other less urban, less educated and rural parts of the country.
So, now that you know the health risks and dangers of contracting tuberculosis, eating Fuku Elegusi and other visibly infected organs has to STOP immediately to protect your health and prevent the spread of tuberculosis. Also you should spread the word and educate others, even as you visit your favorite butcher and meat seller in the market. Be sure to examine thoroughly, the kind of meat and offal (inu eran) you buy for your consumption. If you are not comfortable with the appearance of any food animal product, DON’T BUY IT, no matter the amount of pressure mounted on you to buy or the ‘marketing skills’ of the seller.
Your health and safety is VERY important.
Share and transfer this knowledge as much as you can. We can all work together in achieving a healthier lifestyle for ourselves.
This post was adapted from MyAnimal,MyHealth
Oluwarore is a veterinarian and a public health consultant. She is the founder and project manager for MyAnimal, MyHealth, a veterinary and public-health consult that provides veterinary services and promotes animal/public health education and research. She is a graduate of University of Ibadan and a Commonwealth Scholar at the Global Health Academy, University of Edinburgh.
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