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22.10.2008 Feature Article

Frozen meat, fish consumers in danger

The main preservation of meat and fish has always been through freezing.

In this modern era consumers depend solely on cold stores for their fish and meat, with the assumption that it is well preserved there.

The question is, is their assumption really a truism? It is very pitiful that sometimes those that people really rely on for good health, turn out to be the ones that rather inflict diseases on them, and put their health at risk.

In the Food and Drugs Board's (FDB) review of 150 cold storage facilities inspection reports in the Accra–Tema Metropolis, the inspections were carried out to find out the level of compliance of the companies to Good Cold Storage Practices.

It was discovered that a lot of cold stores in the metropolis do their repackaging under unhygienic conditions, and without the authorisation of the FDB. What's more, there is non-adherence to personal hygiene, absence of or faulty washrooms, use of personnel not medically certified, absence of or faulty temperature–monitoring devices, lack of Pest Control Programme.

According to the directives of the FDB, packaging of products should be airtight to prevent oxidation, wrapping material should have high resistance to penetration of water vapour, in order to protect the fish evaporation during storage, and wrappers should be well-fitted to the product.

Though most of these cold stores know the exact practice to undertake, to prevent the contamination of these products, a lot of things are taken for granted, regardless of how the human health would respond to these products in its bad state.

Causes of spoilage of meat

Meat has always being the favourite of many Ghanaians and many people worldwide. Its most preserved state is when it is well-frozen. The process of thawing is a gradual indication of its contamination and exposure to bacteria. The FDB has concluded that meat can really reach a state of spoilage, when it undergoes frequent re-packaging.

It can also go bad when there are poor or inefficient freezing facilities, poor storage facilities, inappropriate packaging material, and storage beyond shelf-life.

It is always advised to discard contaminated products, however, when contaminated products are repackaged and added to others in good condition, the possibility of the contaminated product affecting the rest is very high.

Meat with its nature always turns to decolourize, or changes colour, when it goes bad.

There is an excessive liquid exudation from bad meat, development of an off-flavour, softening of the meat tissue, strong smell in freezer or cold room, as well as presence of flies around and within the cold room.

Signs of spoilage in fish

Normally, due to the reason that cold-stored fish have no expiring date on their packages, people find it very difficult detecting whether or not it is wholesome.

For one to detect if fish is wholesome or not, the FDB has elaborated that spoilt fish has signs of loss of flavour, changes in its texture, changes in colour, that is the fish turns a yellowish brown colour, and sunken eyes. Moreover there is always an indication of the presence of slime on the skin and gills, an unpleasant ammonia cal odour and flavours, dents in the flesh, after pressing with your thumb, slimy rather than moist wet body, as well as a sharp or peppery taste.

How can spoilage be prevented?

According to the FDB freezing does not kill spoilage organisms in food, but rather stops their rate of multiplication. Organisms will continue to grow and multiply after the frozen food is thawed. Therefore, the number of bacteria in and on the food must be held at a minimum, before freezing it in a freezing van, to be conveyed to its final destination. For this reason, there is the need to keep everything that touches it, be it fingers or equipments, thoroughly clean.

Frozen foods should be totally enclosed in odourless and taint-free packaging of good quality, in order to prevent contamination of the product.

Importance of fish to the human body

Fish is a very important nutrient in our everyday diet. Thefightdiabetes.com has indicated that fish oil has positive effects on the heart, brain, joints, skin and even pregnancy. It can be used to prevent coronary heart diseases and stroke, essential fatty acid deficiency in infancy (retinal and brain development), Diabetes, Autoimmune disorders (e.g. Lupus and nephropathy), mild hypertension and other associated diseases.

Fish oil deficiencies have also been tied to many conditions like diabetes, depression, weight gain, heart disease, allergies, arthritis, violence, memory problems, cancer, eczema and inflammatory diseases.

Protein is important for the growth and development of the body, and repairing of worn out tissues and the production of enzymes and hormones, required for many body processes.

Vitamin A from fish is more readily available to the body than from plant food. It is required for normal vision and for bone growth. Mortality is reduced in children less than 5 years. Vitamin C is important for the healing of wounds, normal health of body tissue, and aids in the absorption of iron in the body. Iron deficiency is associated with anemia, impaired brain function, and in infants, is associated with poor learning ability and poor behaviours.

Effect of eating spoilt meat/ fish

Just like the eating of a contaminated meal can give adverse effect to one's health, the same applies to the eating of contaminated or spoilt meat or fish. According to research made by the FDB on Good Cold Storage Practices in some parts of the country, it was discovered that the intake of spoilt fish or meat caused diarrhoea. According to Rehydration Project website, Diarrhoea is the passage of watery stool, usually at least three times in a 24-hour period. However, it is the consistency of the stool, rather than the number that is most important. If one is fortunate not to be infected by these diseases, then there is always a strong possibility that one feels nauseous to the extent of him or her vomiting. What is more, one might feel itching all over the body, and sometimes cramps in the stomach.

Conclusion

It is not only cold stores that must keep fish for consumption, but the individual as well, owing to the fact that consumers are those who really suffer the consequences of the carelessness of cold store operators, so whether at the cold store or at home, using a deep freezer, fish or meat must be properly packaged before freezing.

_anonymous Columnist
_anonymous Columnist, © 2008

This author has authored 86 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: AnonymousColumnist

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