June 25, 2024

Tiger nut controversy as Lagos battles cholera, unregistered drinks

Tiger nut controversy as Lagos battles cholera, unregistered drinks

By Sola Ogundipe

A wave of cholera cases has been sweeping through Lagos, leaving a trail of anxiety, illness and death. At the last count, the state Ministry of Health announced a total of 579 suspected cases and confirmed 29 deaths.

While cholera outbreaks aren’t uncommon during the rainy season, the source of this particular outbreak was alleged to  an unexpected culprit – tiger nut drink,  a popular local refreshing and healthy local snack also known as chufa.

The Lagos State government was initially quoted as stating that a survey of those infected by the  disease, had admitted to consuming an unregistered brand of tiger nut drink. The news sent shockwaves. Tiger nut drink is a staple in Lagos, enjoyed by a large number.

Although not technically a “nut”, tiger nut is an interesting addition to a health-promoting diet. It is rich in many nutrients, contributes to good digestion, and may protect against infections and health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. It is also known to act as a natural aphrodisiac.

However, Lagosians became more confused when the State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, debunked the claim, declaring that the source of the outbreak was yet to be  identified and that investigations were continuing. The contradiction  left Lagosians unsure about what to believe was the primary source.

As the theory gained traction, the popular local beverage, widely praised for its health benefits, came under instant scrutiny. In some circles it was even shunned, and those who consumed it regularly boycotted it completely. Sales dwindled, and large stocks of the drink remained unsold with the producers counting their huge losses

Although concerns about hygiene and contamination heightened, some health watchers who were not totally convinced by the verdict pointed out that cholera is primarily a waterborne disease, spread through contaminated water and poor sanitation. They argued that, for instance, the densely populated Lagos Island, one of the worst-hit areas, has long struggled with inadequate water infrastructure.

Abayomi, at a press conference on Monday assured that the  government is taking action to unravel the the source. Efforts to locate and test the suspected drink samples are underway. Additionally, the State government is  focusing on improving waste management and ensuring access to clean drinking water throughout the city.

Residents are urged to be cautious. Frequent handwashing, safe food handling, and consuming only bottled or treated water are crucial steps to prevent the spread of cholera. Avoiding unregistered food and drinks is also advised.

The investigation to pinpoint the source of the outbreak continues. Whether the tiger nut drink is definitively linked to the cases remains to be seen. This incident underscores the importance of clear communication from health officials and the need for robust food safety regulations and responsible waste management practices.