What do you know about “Fuku Elegusi”?
Have you ever been to the market to buy beef (commonly called ‘meat’ here), inu eran (offal) or specifically, fuku (lung)? And you were not convinced that you were getting a good bargain because of the fuku’s physical appearance? Like the fuku had some dark to grayish-white areas or elevations with some of them protruding out of the surface of the fuku itself? And then the meat seller, in a bid to convince you that the meat was safe, cuts a little piece and the pops into his/her mouth to chew? Or maybe you just love the feel of “strong, crunchy” fuku that you can chew like a biscuit and that will last longer in your mouth like chewing-gum?
Yes! Then you know what this is about… its Fuku Elegusi!
A lot of people from the Yoruba tribe in south-western Nigeria would instantly recognize the common phrase Fuku Elegusi. This would especially be familiar for those who live in or frequently visit rural and peri-urban meat sellers in large rural markets as it is commonly sold among beef and inu eran sellers. It is even considered a delicacy for some sellers and consumers as it is said to “last longer in the mouth” as opposed to the normal lung that has a shorter chewing time due to its softer spongy consistency. Recognizing this preference, some butchers attract their customers telling them that “the meat is fuku elegusi”.
Alas, Fuku Elegusi, is a great health hazard for those who come in contact with it, chew it, purchase it and cook for consumption. In fact, In standard developed countries and settings, the animal from which such fuku was harvested from should be slaughtered and completely destroyed.
But let’s come back to our reality in Nigeria…
What is Fuku elegusi in the real health terms?
Fuku Elegusi is the visibly infected parts of a lung that has been previously infected with Tuberculosis disease. It is usually harvested for public sale and consumption from a butchered animal that had a chronic case of tuberculosis. Therefore, consumption of Fuku Elegusi provides a high, direct risk of getting infected with Tuberculosis disease.
We should know that Tuberculosis (TB) is still a disease of high global priority due to its high prevalence and incidence worldwide, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Also, the disease is common as a co-infection in people living with HIV and those with low body immunity. WHO mentioned that in Nigeria, there is high prevalence of TB in humans, stating that in 2014, about 160,000 people in Nigeria had died from TB while 570,000 were living with TB. Now, the percentage of those who got Bovine TB (TB from cattle that produces our ‘meat’) is largely unknown, but it is key to note that Bovine TB and Human TB (TB transmitted between humans) have the same clinical signs and manifestation. Once tuberculosis infection is established in the body of an animal or human, it spreads to sites and organs in the body such as include lungs, liver, kidney and intestines.
In her peer-reviewed research article, Dr Dupe Hambolu corroborates the high risk, customary behavior of eating Fuku Elegusi amongst meat handlers and she interviewed butchers in Oko-Oba Abattoir in Lagos State. She found out that almost a quarter of the study participants actively ate Fuku Elegusi and more than 70% of the study participants did not know that eating Fuku Elegusi could be a source of Bovine TB in humans. It is important to note here that Lagos is one of the most urban and commercial cities in Nigeria. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that this unhealthy acts and lack of knowledge on Fuku Elegusi is increased as a norm in the other less urban and rural parts of the country.
Therefore, now that you know the health risks and dangers of contracting tuberculosis, stop eating Fuku Elegusi (if you used to) and educate others, most especially your favorite butcher and meat sellers in the market. Be sure to examine thoroughly atch the kind of meat and offal (inu eran) you buy for your consumption. If you are not comfortable with the appearance of any food animal product, DON’T BUY IT, no matter the amount of pressure mounted or ‘marketing skills’ of the seller. Your health and safety is important.
Share and transfer this knowledge as much as you can. We can all work together in achieving a healthier lifestyle for ourselves.
– By Kikiope Oluwarore (DVM)