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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Extreme Food Adventure: Is it safe to eat etag with maggots

Photo Courtesy || Fearless And Far
Cordillera - We all know that etag is a term Cordillerans in the North used to call a slab or slice of pork preserved in a traditional way. For most Cordillerans, they associate etag to a tasty pork ham that can be used to flavor 'pinikpikan' and other traditional delicacies.

The making of etag does not involve a complicated  process and the main goal is to preserve the meat by salting and either smoking or sun-drying.

You might see some videos or images of etag with live moving maggots in them and you might be asking yourself if those nasty creatures are essential to making a good tasty etag? Perhaps you might have heard someone from Sagada saying, 'Well, maggots are fine. You can eat it, it won't kill you, anyway', just to talk you out from the "Eww" disgusting feeling that might prevent you from actually eating it. Someone might have also complemented your curiosity to try them by saying "real etag has maggots, no maggots - not tasty".

Kidding aside, the fact that maggots appeared on some etags is an indication that the initial process of preserving the pork hasn't been done very well. It could be due to not being properly salted or exposed under the heat of the sun.

A properly preserved etag should be prepared by rubbing the meat with a generous amount of salt and a little vinegar to prevent flies from swarming on the meat when hanged.  Then dry under the sun for at least three hours daily for seven days. Failure to follow those procedures would allow flies to breed on those meat resulting to the existence of maggots after a few days.

What happens if you eat those meat with maggots on it? Is it safe?

Well, it depends if you intentionally grab a piece of etag with maggots and actually eat them or take the etag with maggots, boil it, then use it to flavor your pinikpikan dish.

It may be safe to consume a little piece of it. However, you could be susceptible to whatever the flies have eaten or been exposed to, such as feces or rotting flesh. Deadly bacteria may be present to the flies and pass it on to the meat.

Etag with maggots can be a potential cause for someone to suffer from Mysisas infection which occurs when maggots infest and feed on the living tissue of animals or humans.

Eating etag with maggots can also cause bacterial poisoning. Most food that have maggots aren't safe to eat, especially if the larvae have been in contact with feces. Some houseflies use animal and human feces as breeding site. They also breed on garbage or rotting organic materials.

Is there a way to eat your etag with maggots?

No one could say that maggots are dangerous because it is actually a very good source of protein, good fats and other elements. In fact, scientist are now looking into the possibility of using maggots to produced textured protein or a sustainable snack for humans, according to healthline.com.

If you cook your etag before eating like most Cordillerans do like mixing them with pinikpikan, it could be safe because cooking would kill the microbes, parasites and bacteria present on the meat.

However, the risks could not be guaranteed to be non-existent in cooked etag. It is still advisable to consume only those etag that was properly preserved without the presence of maggots.

Researchers from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development recommended to etag makers to add 180 grams of rock salt for every kilo of pork they make. Then they should arrange the meat on a covered platter and allow it to cure for at least five days, after which the meat was either hot-smoked for two days (16 hours ) or cold-smoked for five days (56 hours). To ensure that no fly could touch the meat, the dryer should be covered with polythylene plastic -  pcarrd.


So if you happen to visit Cordillera and you want to have a taste of our unique pork ham or jerky, look for the ones that was properly cured. If somehow you are challenged or offered to try one, just make sure those flies washed their hands before sharing those etags with you.
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