Eating this exotic meat may seriously damage your health

Never mind horse meat...llama, crocodile and chimp are now part of our food chain

Britain’s growing taste for exotic meats such as llama, cane rat (“succulent and sweet”), scaly anteater and monkey poses a serious health risk to consumers because many are illegally imported, can be riddled with disease and are not subject to food regulations, the country’s head of food safety inspections has warned.

Rising demand among ethnic minorities for dishes from their homeland, together with Britons’ increasingly adventurous attitude to food, has pushed up demand for traditionally unorthodox ingredients, experts say.

This is putting further pressure on Britain’s food chain, which has already been exposed as highly susceptible to fraud following the recent horse meat scandal in which horse was found to have been widely substituted for beef.

“Animals that were not previously being thought of as food animals are increasingly going into the food chain,” said Andrew Rhodes, head of operations at the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

“People’s tastes are changing and so are the animals they eat. A lot of people are trying different things and there has been an increase in the number of businesses being approved to slaughter various animals,” he said.

“Llamas are starting to pop up and turn into kebabs and burgers, and we are seeing a lot of other things turn up in the food chain that we need to start worrying about.”

Although still relatively rare, llama is increasingly popular, especially among Britain’s gurkha communities, which regard it as a premium meat. It has not so far been found to have been substituted for beef or any other ingredient in the UK.  Unlike with many exotic meats, it is legal to eat llama in this country, provided it is labelled as such, killed by an approved slaughterhouse and passes the necessary health inspections.

However, there is evidence that the scale of bush meats imported illegally is growing rapidly, with produce sold over the internet and in local markets, especially in and around London.

“We are detecting more bush meat. People are bringing it in illegally to sell within certain communities. This is dangerous because it has not been prepared or inspected for illness and won’t have been refrigerated during the journey,” said Mr Rhodes.

Most of the bush meats come from Central and West African countries such as Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Ghana, and potentially expose handlers and consumers to deadly diseases.

Bush meats include apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas, as well as crocodiles, small antelope and scaly anteaters. Experts say ape meats pose particular risks, with the HIV virus widely believed to have started in chimpanzees, while apes generally host diseases, such as ebola, anthrax and yellow fever.

Mr Rhodes is also concerned about the dangers of plants. He is worried that paan – legally imported from Bangladesh and India and chewed neat as a palate cleanser or mixed with tobacco or spices as a stimulant – could cause salmonella. “As people start to broaden their tastes, we are starting to see some issues around this,” he said, adding that Britain is working with other European governments to try to control paan imports.

An FSA spokesman said: “We are reminding local authorities to be vigilant. However, a lot of the illegal meat trade goes on out of the sight of enforcement officers, so it can be difficult to tackle without specific intelligence.”

Mr Rhodes warned in a conference speech this month that food is increasingly being used to traffic drugs, including inside live animals, with the drugs removed at the point of slaughter Environmental Health News reported.

Some of the favourites:

Llama: This course but slightly-sweet meat is favoured by Britain’s gurkha communities and is increasingly being (legally) found in burgers and kebabs.

Cane rat: Also known as “grass cutters”, they are typically imported from Ghana, where they are considered a delicacy.        

Antelope: This finely-grained animal tastes similar to venison and has one third of the calories of beef.

Crocodile: A favourite ingredient on the classic Namibian Cashew Nut Satay mixed bushmeat skewer. Serve with satay of peanut butter, cashew nuts, coconut, palm sugar and chillies

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power