To improve on the health benefit of smoked fish for consumers, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed a new oven known as Ahoto to phase out the Chorkor smoker, used by fish processors to smoke fish.
The new ovens emit less smoke and, therefore, have reduced high levels of potential of hydrogen (pH) found in fish, smoked locally using other smokers.
A Technical Advisor to the National Fish Processors and Traders Association (NAFTA), Apostle Dr Queronica Quartey, made this known in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra to throw more light on the effects of smoked fish on health.
The interview was after she had made a presentation on “Women in Fisheries” at a consultation programme with stakeholders to gather women’s concerns on gender and women empowerment organised by the Women in Law and Development (WiLDAF).
According to her, recent research shows that smoked fish from Ghana had high pH levels which were not acceptable for human consumption and, therefore, could not pass international standards.
She said fish smoked using the Chokor smoker had high levels of cancer causing agents and toxic compounds and needed to be faced out.
Dr Quartey added that a number of improved ovens were, therefore, being developed to salvage the situation.
Chorkor smoker is a locally made oven which was developed in the early 1970s by the Food Research Institute (FRI) in collaboration with women fish processors in Chorkor, Accra with assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The oven is widely used for drying fish and was an improvement over the traditional rectangular oven with a fixed surface.
The pH is a measurement of the hydrogen ion concentration in the body. The pH range is from zero to 14, with 7.0 being neutral. Anything above 7.0 is alkaline, and anything below 7.0 is considered acidic.
A healthy blood pH without cancer has acid + alkaline balance being almost equal. A healthy body is slightly alkaline measuring approximately 7.4.
Apostle Dr Quartey, who is also the Technical Advisor for the West Africa Regional Fisheries Programme, Ghana, said the initial purpose of the Chorkor smoker was to save women from the laborious ways in which they processed fish by smoking.
However, she said, decades later, it had emerged that the high levels of smoke emissions from the oven as oil from the fish dripped directly into the fire, left the fish with high acidic and alkaline levels which could cause cancer and other diseases in the near future.
“Chokor smoker has a lot of cancer causing agents, we should not be consuming fish that would bring us ailments,” she said.