Eateries and restaurants all over the world constantly seek ways to cut cost and serve meals on time. However, a cost cutting measure is costing the health and lives of diners in Nigeria.
The assertion is that certain eateriesin the West African nation are settling on the over-the-counter drug, paracetamol intended to alleviate pain and fever to soften or tenderize meat.
These food joint operators purchase one sachet of 12 tablets for N50 or (14 Cents) and then use it to soften a pot-full of meat within minutes thereby saving cash as opposed to using gas, kerosene or firewood to cook without the drug, which would have taken longer to cook and soften the meat, especially cow leg – a delicacy which takes a good time to cook.
Aside the cow leg/bokoto at roadside bukka, the food joint operators are said to use paracetamol also for goat meat pepper soup and meat vegetable soups.
But while they save cost on production, they endanger the lives of the consuming public as medical practitioners hold that paracetamol toxicity leads to liver failure and kidney failure.
In Nigeria, there is an increasing number of people with kidney failure and with the Nigerian Association of Nephrology declaring in 2019 that 25 million Nigerians have kidney failure with hypertension being the leading cause, many online users have pointed out since the news emerged that paracetamol being used for cooking meat is also a notable culprit.
In its 2016 report, the Nigeria Medical Journal noted that Chronic kidney disease (CKD) had become so prevalent in the country that it has “become a public health problem in Nigeria.”
When paracetamol is used for cooking, it is hydrolyzed (broken down) into 4-aminophenol, which is highly toxic to the kidney. Also, high consumption of analgesics over many years is a well-known cause of kidney damage. Paracetamol poisoning usually causes liver failure which may also be accompanied by acute renal failure. High doses of aspirin or paracetamol can cause acute renal failure.
Perhaps it’s out of ignorance that some of the operators use the drug for cooking. For such persons, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), is urging food preparers to soak meat in a salty solution for about 30 minutes before cooking.
Other suggestions include using a pressure cooker, soak meat in a vinegar solution, citrus juice or wine before cooking. Another option to tenderize meat is to soak it in pineapple, kiwi, ginger, Asian pear or pawpaw as they contain enzymes to soften meat.
One sure way is to cook the meat slowly or use legally sanctioned meat tenderizers either in powder or liquid form to cook.
Meanwhile, NAFDAC said it has increased its monitoring of restaurant operators to ensure those endangering the lives of their clients get arrested and prosecuted.
Online users have also encouraged each other to cook meals often at home and sparingly buy food from roadside vendors or eateries, noting before liver damage and kidney failure kills, its treatment is also expensive. One needs about three sessions of dialysis and erythropoietin weekly to stay alive amounting to a monthly bill of about ₦250,000 ($687).