Friday, July 21, 2017

Let's overhaul meat industry to save lives


By TheCitizen

Tanzania’s meat industry is in danger of imploding. With 81 per cent of slaughterhouses below standards, consumers and abattoir workers are at high risk of contamination.

In recent years, even donkey meat has been appearing on Tanzanian menus, unusual in a country that has 25 million cattle, 16.7 million goats, 8 million sheep, 2.4 million pigs and 36 million chickens.

Donkeys have been slaughtered in backyard abattoirs and meat sold illegally, with estimated 2,000 tonnes smuggled out last year. Donkey hides are much sought after in China, where they are believed to have medicinal value.

As the business boomed, donkeys were stolen and killed at night in villages to get meat for sale locally and externally even without ensuring its fitness for human consumption.

This is dangerous since many organisms, such as bacteria and viruses that affect animals such as donkeys can also cause diseases in humans. They include Brucellosis, which attacks muscles, tendons and joints. Anthrax is a zoonosis that affects virtually all animal species. Humans can develop local lesions, such as carbuncles and pustules from contact with infected blood and tissue and acquire pneumonia from inhaling the infectious agent.

Glanders, a rare devastating bacterial infection, caused by Burkholderia mallei bacterium is a notifiable disease of horses, donkeys and mules. Others are tetanus, tularemia, TB and leptospirosis. So serious has donkey butchering become that the government banned the business on fears that the animals were in danger of being wiped out.

Slaughtering donkeys for commercial purposes

The government has announced that it will carry out a survey to determine the actual number of donkeys and their birth rates before the business resumes--slaughtering donkeys for commercial purposes. It will establish whether there are enough donkeys to slaughter them commercially and sustainably.

Major donkey-producing areas will be identified and possibly find investors to establish ranches, rear them in a modern way and setting up quality slaughterhouses and processing plants for such herbivores. Donkey hides will also be processed locally to add value for export. Generally, the government documented that 548,000 tonnes of meat were produced in the last fiscal year and 3,700 tonnes of them were exported to the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Mozambique.

But the business is disorganised taking into account the fact that of 1,107 abattoirs, 900 of them do not meet standards. Even the Tanzania Meat Board is concerned. Diseases such bovine spongiform encephalopathy that can degenerate the brain fatally can be easily transmitted to humans, who eat food contaminated spinal cords or digestive tracts of infected carcasses. Although no outbreak has been reported in Tanzania, it is wrong to take matters lightly.

Many other diseases such as E. coli, Trichinosis, Salmonella and Scrapie are known in the meat industry. Additionally, the meat and food industries are vulnerable to a variety of other infectious diseases due mainly to poor personal hygiene and processing sanitation practices, which in turn can develop the growth of bacteria, viruses, moulds and yeasts. With the health budget strained, it is wrong to ignore health safety regulations. Let’s overhaul our meat industry policy and legislation.