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Frozen Chicken Is Dangerous!

Frozen Chicken Is Dangerous!

One of the menaces of the much talked about strength of globalization is the opening up of local markets particularly in Africa to an unfair competition that consequently fills our plates with food products of different horizons and doubtful quality.  (Photo:  Chicken choppers)

Frozen chicken, by all indications, is dangerous not only for the health of the population and local farmers, but also for the national economy. A recent study on the production chain of chicken and the estimation of loss in currency have proven the catastrophic effect on the national economy due to the massive importation of frozen chicken. Local poultry farmers are very much at the receiving end. 

While it would seem like the chicken business is contributing hugely to local revenue generation and has helped transformed the lives of dealers in it, it is worthy to note that the massive and uncontrolled importation of frozen chicken (dead chicken) is catastrophic for every reason.

It is estimated that Sierra Leone imported a total of 25,000 tons of frozen chicken in 2006 and up to 94,000 tons in 2010. The tonnage is expected to keep rising or even double, giving the mad rush for chicken across the country.

The main thrust of this special commentary is to inform all sensitive souls, educate and sensitize the ordinary consumers on the frozen chicken phenomenon, more especially as to the dumping prices (low prices) pieces of it are sold in the market.

A laboratory test conducted on 200 samples of frozen chicken in Cameroon a few years ago affirmed the presence of millions of pathogenic agents (microbes) and also established a list of symptoms and diseases susceptible to be provoked by these deadly agents.

It is without doubt that 83.5% of frozen chicken served to consumers are not fit for human consumption. At least 15% is believed to be infected by a bacteria called salmonella which causes gastro enteric and food poisoning in human, while 20% have campylobacter which is a principal agent causing infectious enteric zoo-noses.

These are some testimonies by consumers of frozen chicken:

“Frozen chicken, it only has the form of a chicken. It has no taste.  But since it is cheaper, it is better than nothing for the children as it gives the impression that they are eating meat. Anyway, they are contented; each having a large piece in his plate”    

“Without lime, it is not easy with frozen chicken. It has odor. To prepare it, I am obliged to put it in lime for about five to ten minutes to get rid of the odor”.

“Frozen chicken, it cooks very fast and it is very soft. If you are distracted after putting it on fire, you will find only gruel chicken”.

“Is this chicken? Chicken without head? Where are the heads? What can prove that they are really chickens? Now we know the chicken only through the taste”.

The standard for rearing chickens destined to customers in Europe (standard chicken) is so strict and cost involving that chickens reared within a period of 30-35 days are prohibited for human consumption there.

This is the reason why most breeders see developing countries as a thriving spot for their dumping business, and they seem to be making huge money out of it. No one checks for the quality of the chickens, not to talk about ascertaining whether they are not something else.

Once hatched, the fowls are fed with food rich in antibiotics or growth activators. They are referred to as “export chickens”, and therefore no attention is paid on quality production. It’s all about producing as much as you can, knowing that quick or free markets are all over the place, particularly in Africa.

In European markets, consumers prefer white meat. That is the breastbone or the chest or breast of the chicken. The thighs and wings are considered as low quality products, or giblets that can be sold at any price. What a good business for to our importers who are sure to tie up business relations with slaughter chains to make packets with these giblets for them.

The contention here is that these low quality products are not destined to European markets and so those who slaughter the fowls are not in any way obliged to any hygienic condition. Why border when it is for export?

Note that these giblets which flood the local markets are often collected by industries which manufacture foods, croquettes and other feed for dogs and cats.

You might not know that “old layers”, that is those fowls which no longer lay eggs, can only be sold as table chicken in Europe. The European regulation is strict on this subject. Either you keep broilers or you keep old layers. Therefore it is a headache for egg producers to get rid of these old layers…even at very low prices in order to keep new fowls.

In the past, these old layers were either sent to food industries as food for dogs and cats, or were destroyed.

Today, Africa has opened her doors and importers who are not lacking are eager to cease this opportunity to make profit. It is often said that old layers from Europe are reserved to be shipped to Africa…and good morning to your plate. Because there is always no label on the packets, it is difficult to establish whether a certain chicken consignment has not expired, and reports have it that some whole chickens or breastbones found at random cold stores in our markets are of this origin.

Following repeated endemics known in big regions of the world, slaughter and incineration measures are taken to protect the population and to reduce economic loss due to the contagion to large scale livestock. The million dollar question is, are these fowls truly slaughtered and incinerated as many people think? There are so many reasons to doubt this.

Slowly but surely, the unchecked or uncontrolled importation of dead fowls has invaded the markets at a point to relegate the local good chicken. Many people don’t care anymore about our own “country fowls” as they are often referred to. Apart from them being branded as too exorbitant, most people now prefer frozen chicken to them.

Take a walk to all the posh hotels and departments around the country, and you’ll be amazed to discover that country fowl is hardly served. They serve it only on special demand and it’s most times very, very expensive.

In nearly all marriages and other notable ceremonies including dinners that I’ve attended over the past two years, the dish is considered incomplete if ‘chicken’ is absent. I remember asking one of the ladies serving whether they had country fowl, and her response to me was a bit embarrassing…”it’s free food”.

Visit all the cookery shops across the country, and you’ll hardly find a place where local chicken is on sale. At a village called Baima in the Kailahun District, I visited a cookery shop to start my day. The lady had soup, cassava leaf and beans on sale. When asked whether she had country meat, she shouted saying “bush meat is too expensive here and besides, the demand is low”. What she readily and proudly had was chicken. “I only have chicken”, she said. What kind of chicken, I asked. English chicken was her immediate response.

This is how badly the so-called globalization mantra has impacted on the daily lives of our people, most of whom perceive eating frozen chicken as a luxury and a sign of good living. You can’t convince such people otherwise easily.

While doing my research on this article, a friend I encountered asked, “Theo, do you know that it is the formalin chemical that is used to preserve the chickens that are flooding our market”. I was shocked to hear that, knowing fully well that formalin is the chemical used to preserve dead human bodies.

What is clear is that unlike cigarette that is marked “smoking is dangerous to your health”, chicken consignments enter countries like Sierra Leone with dignity despite their hazardous effects, and end up in the plates of our distinguished public officials including the very big guys themselves, medical practitioners, law makers, judges, magistrates and lawyers, journalists, consumer protection personnel, civil society activists, law enforcement officials and military personnel, university professors, teachers and private businessmen among others. The list is actually endless, and therefore only safe to state that the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans are unsuspecting consumers of dead fowls from Europe and elsewhere in the West, where they are strictly prohibited. What most people have failed to realize is that it is a money making thing and nothing else.

I am in pity with white folks, who would in normal circumstances not have anything to do with frozen chicken in their countries, but have to contend with it in our local posh restaurants and eating spots at the Lumley Beach and elsewhere. They normally pay more than seven times the prize of chicken in the market. This is outright exploitation and slow poisoning.

“In no case should the sale and storage of fresh fishery products (e.g. fresh fish) and livestock (e.g. frozen chicken) be carried out on the same counter or warehouse; this is same for vehicles used for transporting them”, states Decree No. 86/711 0f 14 July 1986: Laying modalities for veterinary sanitary inspection. This code is obviously not applicable in Africa. Out here, fishery products and frozen chickens are transported, stored, sold and even cooked together. A catastrophe indeed!

Typhoid is becoming far more dreaded and rampant than malaria nowadays in Sierra Leone, and no one seems to care. I am almost certain that 80% of all typhoid related cases are attributable to the influx dead fowls or imported chickens in the local market.

With a business-friendly president in control of things, and one who cares less about due diligence, it goes without saying that the dumping phenomenon will continue to thrive, while people continue to die innocently.

God save us!          

By Theophilus Sahr Gbenda

Courtesy of the Citizens Association for the Defence of Collective Interests

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  • Morning Theo,
    Just finished reading your article “Frozen Chicken is Dangerous”. Extremely well written and informative. Living in the U.S., we sometimes have situations where a business “accidentally” allows sick or contaminated animals or plants to enter our processed food chain. But certainly not as deliberate and to the extent of your problem. It’s odd that your government officials appear to be eating the “same food” as the locals. Best of luck getting this issue under control. Maybe your article will reach more people outside of your country, especially the ones responsible for providing the sub-standard food.
    Myles Prysby
    Littleton, Colorado U.S.A.

    3rd March 2011

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