Roasted animal skin, otherwise known as ponmo, is one of the favourite meat parts that Nigerians love to eat.
However, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has warned the general public to be careful of the consumption of ponmo!
The Lagos State Government is currently waging war against what it describes as ‘toxic ponmo,’ which it says is being sold in the state.
A statement signed by NAFDAC Director General, Mojisola Adeyeye, warning Nigerians against indiscriminate ponmo consumption states:
- Most of these animal hides are meant for industrial use.
Some of the animal hides are sometimes pre-treated with industrial chemicals, which are not of food grade and are toxic and injurious to human health.
Some companies legally import hides from countries such as Lebanon and Turkey, while majority of the product are smuggled into the country through the porous borders.
The imported animal hides are meant for industrial use by leather industries for the manufacturing of items such as shoes, bags, belts and others.
Health hazards inherent in the consumption of such animal hides include risk of liver, kidney and heart damage, increased risk of Aplastic anaemia, central nervous system toxicity, cancer and more.
Livestock farmers are advised to note that industrial animal hides could not be used in the manufacture of animal feed.
Associated chemicals are generally stored in the tissues of animals that are fed with feed made with industrial animal hides and will eventually end up in humans when consumed, with the attendant effects.
Every cuisine of the world has one food item or another, that causes so much controversy about why and how it is eaten and enjoyed….and for Nigeria & Nigerians, one of such food items is the cow skin…(aka pomo, ponmo, awo, kanda (dried form), raincoat).
The health hazards inherent in the consumption of such animal hides include:
- Risk of Liver Damage
Kidney and heart damage,
Increase risk of Aplastic anaemia, central nervous system toxicity
Increase risk of cancer and more.
So What are the Concerns
All over the internet there are several references to pomo being unhealthy, cancer causing, nutritionally value-less and also a drain to the Nigerian economy. Even a BBC article picked it up (Nigeria Is Eating its Leather Industry…!)
First of all, in reference to pomo being unhealthy, we have established above that it does contain some amount of protein (albeit low quality because it lacks some essential amino acids) and also it contains some minerals. This claim was made in the research work of Akwetey W. Y., Eremong D. C. and Donkoh A. referenced above. They however infer that the quantities of nutrients in pomo is directly dependent on the method of production.
Akwetey W. Y., Eremong D. C. and Donkoh A. also found out that contaminants are most likely introduced into pomo based on the methods of production. For instance, the pomo made through roasting in flames made with tyre and petrochemicals, is more likely to carry residual elements which would be unsuitable for consumption and may have dangerous effects on the body.
There are also concerns that some chemical substances given to cattle (for veterinary reasons) prior to slaughter, may remain the the skin and subsequent passed on to humans who eat the skin. This in addition to fears that the skin harbors parasites, lesions or diseases which could be transferred into the food chain.
Furthermore, there are concerns that unscrupulous pomo processors/producers inject chemical agents into pomo to plump it up and make it more appealing for buyers.
Last but not least of all these concerns, is that Nigeria could be earning more foreign currency by exporting cow hide or perhaps develop its own leather manufacturing industry. So rather than eat cow skin, Nigerians being persuaded to sell it or turn it to leather!
Every concern expressed above relates directly to the methods of processing of pomo. With better methods of production, and with appropriate monitoring and public health inspection and certification, I believe there will less concerns about pomo.
Pomo is a delicacy that Nigerians love and enjoy, more for its taste and texture (when cooked properly). It does contribute a unique taste and texture to any meal it is added, particularly stews and soups.
Due to its level of popularity and availability, pomo is a food item that is about to be eliminated from the Nigerian culinary culture any time soon! Instead, what ought to be done is address the concerns surrounding its production and ensure that methods that are used follow the right specifications and standards.