If you’re someone like me, you can’t buy Rice or Amala without requesting one meat and one ponmo (cowhide). Locally roasted cowhide popularly referred to as “ponmo” is a staple Nigerian delicacy. This is usually used to replace red meat or an addition to it when cooking.
If you’re still anything like me, you might have come across a report of some laboratory tests carried out on Ponmo last year. These tests revealed some shocking details about the amount of unsafe chemical constituents that were present in the Ponmo tested. The NAFDAC Director General, Mojisola Adeyeye, also issued a warning to Nigerians about the indiscriminate consumption of ponmo in some states.
Now we want to know, is Ponmo anything to be bothered by? Is it safe to consume or should extra caution be taken?
5 reasons why Ponmo might not be as healthy as you think
Pretreatment with Industrial toxins
As some of us might know, cowhide is the same material being used in the production of leather. However, to make leather, this hide needs to be treated with poisonous chemicals that make them inedible but last a long period. Some abattoir workers and owners also treat Ponmo in this way to make it last longer. This is in a bid to save money but it places the health of the consumers in great danger.
Unhealthy methods of roasting
Do you know that in many places, ponmo is usually processed by burning tyres, plastic, spoilt shoes and even engine oil sometimes? If you have ever seen the soot that dominates the environment when cowhide is being roasted, you might understand better. The processing of Ponmo in this way is highly unsafe to workers. However, because this burnt residue ends up sticking to the processed cowhide, some can make their way into the finished meal. These substances are very unsafe and are mostly carcinogenic (can cause cancer).
Sale of Industrial-grade cowhide as Ponmo
Yes, you read that right. Some people go as far as using imported cowhides meant for leather companies in making Ponmo. As it has been said that cowhide is the starting material for leather and Ponmo. To save cost, these industrial grade cowhide is sometimes sold as ponmo to unknown buyers. I think it is quite obvious how harmful it can be to be consuming “meat” that is actually “near-leather”.
Multiple associated health hazards
Several health risks are attached to the consumption of animal hides. These include: kidney and heart diseases, liver damage, central nervous system toxicity and cancer. This can result from the various chemical substances used in processing cowhide that find their way into the body.
Use of decomposing animals
Some sellers take their “profit-making” as far as packaging decomposing cowhide as ponmo. As seen in the news, five traders were arrested in Rivers state for selling decomposing ponmo. The lack of care observed in the processing and handling of ponmo makes it highly susceptible.
A word from Healthfacts
Many Nigerians love to enjoy Ponmo with their meal from time to time. However, extra care should be taken if you truly cannot do without eating it. This can include vetting the abbatoir you source it from to be sure healthy practices were observed in processing it. This can also mean reducing your consumption of Ponmo if you can’t attest to it being processed properly.
Finally, you can also report any abattoir or local distributor you suspect of improper processing of cowhide to the authorities. This could be saving your life or that of someone else.