Well-prepared abacha (salad) good for health, say experts
The much sought after local delicacy, abacha, was in the news a few weeks ago for the wrong reasons.Contaminated preparations were believed to have induced cholera, which led to the death of six persons and hospitalisation of 39 others in the Isolo area of Lagos.
But health experts have said that a meal of well-prepared abacha is good for human consumption and could even help in the prevention and treatment of diseases.
They attributed the cholera outbreak to poor hygiene, while preparing the local delicacy and advised people to maintain clean environment to prevent further occurrences
Abacha is a delicious Nigerian food that is native to the Igbos. It is prepared from dried, shredded and fermented cassava, leaves of garden egg, stockfish, castor bean, palm oil and some other local spices.
A virologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Prof. Sunday Aremu Omilabu, said cholera is water borne disease, which has to do with poor environmental hygiene. He explained that it is only through eating of contaminated foods and water that cholera is contracted.
Omilabu said environments, gutters and toilets should be regularly cleaned, while bushes should always be cut. Drinking water should be well treated and covered. It is advisable that people should stop buying foods exposed to all kinds of weather, especially foods on the street.
He said: “Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration and even death, if untreated. Eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae is what causes cholera.
“The disease makes patients to become weak, which results in coma and shock. We know cholera is one of the bacteria that was earlier detected, and is very common in under-developed countries, where environmental hygiene is not maintained.
“The problem is not in the abacha, but in the handling of the ingredients in it. If the process is done in a place, where there is a lot of defecation, where environmental sanitation is poor, such food can be contaminated. Water in that vicinity can be contaminated and once people drink it or eat contaminated foods, they go down with cholera.
“Whoever wants to eat such fruits as avocado pear, mango, apple and garden eggs, among others, should wash them thoroughly with clean water. It is only when this is done that people would be free from contracting diseases.
“Flies can also transmit cholera to our foods and if your water or foods were not well covered, the flies would transmit the disease to them. Those who can afford to boil water before using should do so, but once the water-cools down, flies can contaminate it, if it is not well preserved. So, we should keep our water in very clean area, as boiled water can be contaminated, if not well covered. We should keep our water where flies, cockroaches and other insects cannot reach it.
“Flies are associated with dirty environments, but if your environment is clean, they won’t come around so, we should keep our environments clean.”
The Consultant, Public Health Physician and Nutritionist at College of Medicine Universality of Lagos, Dr. Folu Olatona, said abacha is a very nutritious food, but the cholera was from the preparation process. She said people should stop buying foods by the roadside, especially from food vendors or any restaurant they are not comfortable with. It is preferable to prepare foods at home.
She said: “Environmental hygiene is very important in our homes. If people can keep their environment clean and prepare their foods by themselves, there would be no cholera. Once people begin to have cholera, it would start spreading to others, because it is a water borne diseases.”