Fish a good source of Protein is susceptible to contamination because of their soft tissues and the aquatic environment. They can be contaminated at any point from farm to fork via many means. It is a major public health concern that consumers assume that fish caught fresh from the wild or processed is totally safe. This study therefore seeks to evaluate the human safety in consuming freshly caught fish from dams in Ekiti State and processed fish from Ekiti environs by assessing and comparing the bacterial loads on fish from both sources and identifying possible contributing factors.
Water samples from selected dams in the state, fresh fish and processed fish samples and swab samples from holding and processing equipment were taken to determine bacterial levels. Georeferencing of sample collection points was done. Key informants were interviewed to find out what they know about fish hygiene and quality. Bacteriological analyses and bacterial colony counting were carried out.
Descriptive analysis was used to explain varied bacterial levels while ArcView 3.3 GIS software was used to show the locations on a map.
Water samples from Ureje dam contained higher bacterial loads (3.5x107cfu/g) than Itapaji dam (2.3 x 107 cfg/g) and fall within WHO standards for normal microbial ranges, making them suitable. The bacteria counts on the fish skin were highest both in fresh samples (4.6x107 cfu/g and 4.1 x 107 cfu/g) and smoked samples (5.2 x 107 and 3.2 x 107) and fall within WHO standard for normal microbial ranges. Fresh fish and smoked fish from these study dams are safe for human consumption. Varied levels of bacteria counts observed from fishermen’s containers and fish processors’ working equipment are indicative of individual approaches and knowledge of hygiene maintenance. The practices carried out by fishermen and fish processors show that they are aware of public health implications of maintaining fish quality to ensure delivery of quality fish to consumers.
Particular attention should be paid by fish processors, fish sellers, fishermen and individuals to fish safety through proper processing, storage and handling procedures. The public should be enlightened on the inherent danger that may accompany handling and consumption of fresh fish or consumption of improperly cooked fish.