Perus Logose, a fish inspector and a director of the Kiyidi Women Fish Processors Association, which she initiated in 2010, says their smoked fish have always been rejected by potential customers from abroad on grounds of cancerous smoke.
“On using the local fish smoking methods, we have also had challenges whenever local customers made big orders demanding smoked fish in large quantities,” she said.
The good news though is, the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) has invented a modified fish smoking kiln, as a way of addressing such challenges faced by Logese and all other people in the smoked fish business.
Eng. Alphonse Candia, the officer in charge of NARO’S Agricultural Engineering and Appropriate Technology Research Centre – Namalere, is the brains behind this invention.
He says this newly-invented fish smoking kiln is called NARO FIK-3. It is the first of its kind in Uganda and Africa in general.
He started the process of researching and developing this kiln in 2013. In 2018, they had the first breakthrough, although it later became apparent that it was not user friendly.
This prompted them to modify it, until 2020 when they came out with its final user friendly prototype, which was officially launched by the fisheries state minister, Hellen Adoa.
Health grounds on which this kiln was developed
Safety of the locally smoked fish is among the concerns considered to address with the development of the modified kiln.
Eng. Candia says Uganda could not export her smoked fish to foreign markets, especially the European Union (EU).
This is because smoked fish contained toxic elements, up to 40,000 parts per billion (ppb) carcinogens of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons contain 4 toxic elements such as benzo (a) pyrene, benz (b) anthracene, chrysene and benzo (b) fluoranthene.
The EU Commission Regulation 2015/1125 direct that smoked fish should only have a maximum of 12 parts per billion of the 4 toxic elements of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Of these 12 total parts per billion, it requires that benzo (a) pyrene alone should not exceed 2 parts.
The high levels of toxic elements in the smoked fish arose due to local processors entirely depending on the traditional hot smoking method.
However, whereas most of these traditional methods are affordable, they do not filter these toxic elements from the hard wood that generate the required heat and flavors for smoking.
As a result, frequent consumption of products with high levels of such toxic elements, predispose the consumer to cancer of the stomach, liver, kidney, lungs and the throat.
In addition to eliminating foreign matter contaminants in the smoked fish, the newly developed kiln made a breakthrough in reducing these toxic elements from 40,000 parts per billion to less than 1 part.
Safety of the Narofik-3 kiln
It consists of the smoke generating unit, smoke delivery system, smoke filter and the dehydration chamber. Smoke generation unit produces hot smoke or obtains the required flavor in the smoked fish.
Then, the smoke delivery system conveys the generated smoke into the filter, which removes the cancer compounds from the smoke, from where it continues to the dehydration chamber where the fish is placed and dehydrated to the required consumer test along with a good flavor.
Filtered smoke does not irritate the eye, yet its final smoked fish’s life time increases from 2 weeks to 2 months when it’s still safe without going bad.
It helps conservation of the environment through reducing the usage of firewood by at least 42%.
Yet this kiln also reduces the emission of greenhouse gases, since it does not use fossil fuels.