In Nigeria, Suya is likely the most renowned delicacy of grilled meat sold in corners of streets. It is a skewered meat derived from ram, cow, lamb or chicken, roasted on a grill rack and dipped in a mix of spices, known in Hausa as Yaji, to give it a nicer aroma and taste and served. Before being barbecued, the meat is usually marinated in a dehydrated peanut cookie — kwulikwuli, vegetable oil, salt, and other spices — peculiar to the Hausa tradition. According to a food scientist, Chibuike Benjamin, suya — made from beef — possesses nutritional properties that are necessary to the human body.
Studies have revealed that beef and lamb, from which suya is produced has nutritional properties which include zinc — strengthens the immune system by repairing damaged — iron, magnesium, Vitamin B12, selenium, manganese and phosphorus; it likewise possesses high sodium and calories. Although now famous around the country, the spicy delicacy is believed to have originated from the Hausa/northern region of Nigeria. It is particularly sold at night at pubs, joints, and pleasure spots across diverse social stratums.
Most suya meats possess deadly contaminations.
Despite its nutritional properties, the meal has been reported to be contaminated. A study carried out by researchers in the Department of Food Engineering, UNILORIN, states that the major unhygienic source of contamination is the usage of newspapers to package suya meat. The suya makers are used to retrieving old newspapers from different homes for the purpose of packaging suya for their customers. These newspapers are said to be dirty and dusty and collected from homes where chemicals are used as control for insects like cockroaches and mosquitoes.
Also, it was noticed that the grill rack is placed on an elevated table that accommodates dust that swirls from human and vehicular movements; the dust thereafter settles on the skewered meat on the rack. Another observation was that the Mai suya usually handled the suya with bare hands without hand washing or hand sanitization. Severally, mai suya accept dirty notes and even scratch parts of their bodies with the same hand that is used to hold suya meat, onions, tomatoes, cabbage and cucumber while cutting for others.
Oven-grilled meat is better than an open flame-grilled meat.
Commenting on these unhygienic practices, Mr. Emmanuel Udoh, a Lagos-based nutritionist, added that the state of the processed meat when it was purchased contributes to the contamination. The health of many consumers could be threatened by the quality of water used to wash the meat, the level of hygiene in the environment and the utensils. Slaughtering of sick animals, use of dirty water to wash meats, improper exposure of the suya meat, fly/bug contamination during grilling done in dirty areas, contaminated equipment and addition of unhealthy spices could be other sources of contamination.
Additionally, a research has shown that consumption of suya has led to an increase in cancers, colorectal cancers especially. Regular consumption of suya is equivalent to an 18 percent likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. There is an higher possibility of being cancerous if the meat is thoroughly cooked with black charcoal marks on it. Cancers like colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer have been linked to consumption of charcoal-marked suya. Medical experts therefore advised that meat is grilled in an oven rather than an open flame.
Barbecued meat or suya with beer is healthier.
According to a Professor of Community and Public Health Nutrition at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ngozi Nnam, suya consumption with onions and other vegetables reduces the risk of cancer. Also, a group of researchers at the University of Porto, Portugal, recommended consumption of barbecued meat or suya with beer as a healthier meal. The President of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, Prof. Musa Borodo, speaking on the need for better exploration to treat gastrointestinal diseases, urged people to desist from consuming burnt plantain (boli), suya and refined drinks to avoid cancer.