Letter: Dine out on dirt

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The Independent Online
Sir: Bennet Bronson (Letters, 14 April) is perfectly justified in supporting the work of Berthold Laufer (Miscellany, 21 March). Bizarre as it may seem, there is nothing eccentric about eating soil (geophagy).

Instead, the practice of soil eating is almost a worldwide phenomenon that is not limited to any particular age, group, race, sex, geographical region or historical time. While geophagy may not be common in today's Europeanised society, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the practice is widespread elsewhere with both benefits and problems to the participants. At one site in Nigeria, some 400-500 tons of clay are excavated annually for redistribution into the West African market system.

Geophagy remains a (largely) unrecognised and under-reported practice, which warrants more attention. Perhaps Mr Laufer was just ahead of his time?

Yours sincerely,

PETER W. ABRAHAMS

Institute of Earth Studies

University of Wales

Aberystwyth

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