A research conducted by the University of Ghana, in collaboration with Ghent University, Belgium, has established that consumption of fish smoked with the Chorkor Smoker can cause cancer.
The researchers have, therefore, recommended that Ghanaians use a new fish smoking method, which is an improvement on the Chorkor smoker.
Disseminating the results of the study in Accra on Friday, the researchers recommended the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Thiaroye Technique (FTT), a technique that would improve the system of smoking fish and reduce risk factors in Ghana.
They explained that fish smoked with the Chorkor Smoker and the metal drum kiln, although offered economic gains, contained high levels of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) due to the use of firewood as smoking fuel.
The PAH is a compound produced by incomplete combustion or exposure of organic substances to high temperatures or pressures and contains carcinogens, a compound that is capable of causing cancer.
According to the researchers, exposure to cancer occurred through inhalation, ingestion and skin contact while ingestion was the main route of exposure for non-smokers.
“Although the Chorkor Smoker offered the maximum rate of production and economic gains, the same cannot be said about the safety of the products,” they indicated.
In December 2014, the FAO and SNV Netherlands, a development organisation, introduced the FTT in Ghana to address the PAH problem.
The FTT was built on the strengths of existing improved kilns such as the Chorkor Smoker and was named after Thiaroye, a town in Senegal, where it was put together.
It uses sugar cane bagasse, coconut husk, maize cone, and the local chewing sponge as smoking fuel and has a cooking unit, a smoke flavouring unit, a filter and a smoke generation chamber.
A researcher, Mr Kennedy Bomfeh, observed that the FTT yielded safe products, whereas traditional kilns yielded products that posed PAH health risks.
“Regardless of the wood type used, traditional kilns yield unsafe products. Consumers may be protected from PAH health risks associated with smoked fish consumption if they consume fish smoked with FTT,” he said.
Mr Bomfeh called on the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development to consider the adoption of the FTT in its policy decisions, while he advised fish farmers to employ the technique.
The Greater Accra President of the National Fisheries Association of Ghana (NAFAG), Mrs Doris Ahadzi, called on the government to support fish farmers to obtain and use the FTT.
She stated that fish exported by their members to other consumers had been returned because of the presence of PAH in them.
The Regional Programme Leader and FAO Representative in Ghana, Mr Abebe Haile Gabriel, said the control and reduction of PAHs had become a major concern to fish processors and consumers due to their implication for health.