Did you know that turkey tails are ‘among the most controversial foods in the world‘?
Did you even know that people ate turkey tails?
Well in Ghana they do … or did … or are trying to; against all odds.
The story reads like a thriller.
The fatty delicacies (also known as tsofi or chofi) were banned in Ghana in 1999 because they were deemed so hazardous to the health of the citizens.
That would explain why I didn’t see much of them on my last trip in 2008, compared to the 1997 visit when my brother was scoffing chofi at every opportunity. Any time we were in a market or taxi park he’d be scanning the crowds for the bobbing head box (pictured above) of a chofi seller. Years later, he was still raving about them.
I’m pleased to note that even in those halcyon pre-ban days I had some nagging doubt about turkey tails. I felt that their very existence begged the question: where is the rest of the turkey? It turns out that it was in North America and Europe. Turkey tails are considered to be waste and were (are still?) sold off to unsuspecting fat-lovers in poorer countries such as Ghana and Samoa.
Well it wouldn’t be the first time that rich western countries have offloaded their unhealthy waste to a developing country. But in spite of their dubious origins and the threat they pose to the nation’s cholesterol levels, cheap and filling turkey tails have become very popular in Ghana.
It’s no surprise then that – as is often the way with contraband – the years since 1999 have not been easy ones for Ghana’s Food and Drugs Board (FDB). Well, at least not after they decided to enforce the ban in 2010, having ‘observed with serious concern the proliferation of turkey tails on the local market in flagrant violation of existing regulations.’
Those dratted turkey tail smugglers.
Luckily, the FDB is on top of it. Here’s an example of its successful ‘quest to safeguard public safety’: ‘banned items were seized from the Greater Hope Cold Store … following a tip-off.’ Phew. What a relief that there are upstanding citizens prepared to dob in a smuggler today.
But who is really the victim here? After all, as blogger Ato Kwamena Dadzie points out in his post ‘Don’t touch my chofi’ there are plenty of popular Ghanaian foods that are also rich in saturated fats. Where is the evidence, he asks, that chofi is to blame for an alleged national health crisis? Dadzie goes on to point out the glaring inconsistency that alcohol and cigarettes, which arguably cause far more health and social problems, are not banned. Well I’m with him. Don’t ban turkey tails, just get them onto the harm reduction agenda. Although I confess I’ve never eaten chofi. Somehow they never appealed to me. Too fatty.