Suya as it is being made and sold in many places should not be eaten because of the risks and dangers associated. I will try as much as possible to explain this in very simple and clear terms. This is to enable even a layman read and understand the message of this post. I promise not to mention terms such terms as benz[a]anthracene, Fasciola hepatica and Taenia saginata. In fact, forget I mentioned those three. All I just want you to know are the risks and dangers associated with eating just any Suya.
What is Suya?
If you are reading this, you probably know what Suya is. But by way of definition, Suya is a spicy skewered meat which is a popular food item in various parts of Nigeria and is enjoyed as a delicacy in many parts of West Africa. It is traditionally prepared by the Hausa people of northern Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and some parts of Sudan.
Health and Safety Issues Associated With Suya Consumption
Forget the dirty environment and poor or zero hygiene conditions in which Suya is made and handled in many places in Nigeria, there are other dangers that are inherent in the consumption of Suya – those that many would never know unless they are Food professional or have come across an article like this that explains it.
1. Suya and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
1. Suya and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
You know when they say Cigarette kills? It is majorly due to the PAHs they contain. Many Suya sellers make their Suya by burning all sort of woods and charcoal to make their fire. Some even throw in such things as plastics to make their ember burn brighter in order to cook the Suya meat. Many of these materials burning under the meat contain these Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons — and do you know what these PAHs do in the body after enough consumption or exposure?
Some PAHs are chemical carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds) while seven PAH compounds have also been classified as probable human carcinogens.
Some PAH compounds are mutagens. Mutagen is a physical or chemical agent that changes the genetic material (DNA).
According to a finding, reported in an article on health.usnews.com, high prenatal exposure to PAH is associated with lower IQ and childhood asthma.
Sources of PAHs majorly smokes
2. Potential of contacting zoonotic diseases
A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be passed between animals and humans. Since Suya meats are generally undercooked and in rare occasions carrying some blood on them, there is a chance that one could contact zoonotic diseases from Suya.
Take for example, during the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, we were warned to stay away from Monkey and Bat meats. There was also a stern warning to always cook our meats very well before we eat them. Cooking meat very well cannot really be said of Suya.
Other type of diseases that can be passed from animals to humans include, LEPTOSPIROSIS, BRUCELLOSIS, BUBONIC PLAGUE, SALMONELLOSIS, etc.
Some zoonotic diseases can be passed from the host animal to human directly while others can be passed from consuming their products such as meat and milk.
3. Beef Tapeworm (Taenia saginata)
This is commonly known as the beef tapeworm – a zoonotic tapeworm. Like it was mentioned above, humans majorly get infected by consuming undercooked beef. The infection is may come without any noticeable symptoms but heavy infection can also occur with attendant symptoms. Heavy infection often results in weight loss, dizziness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, constipation, chronic indigestion, and loss of appetite. Heavy infections may cause intestinal obstruction in humans — this can be alleviated by surgery.
Suya can be very delicious and make a good delicacy if well cooked and appropriate types of woods are used for smoking.
For example, it is advised to cook/heat the Suya meat to a safe internal temperature around 80 degrees Celcius or more. Avoid adding plastics or fuels such as kerosene to the fire to make it burn better.
Finally, let me say that eating moderate amounts of smoked meat (Suya) without charring to a safe, yet medium temperature should not not pose a problem.