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Backside-boosting cat food regime in Haiti is hazardous, health experts warn

dry cat food being sold
Screenshot of dry cat food being sold on the street by the cup from a video about manje mimi consumption by the YouTube blog Ipactualité. Courtesy of Iphactualité

The Haitian Times
www.haitiantimes.com 
By Murdith Joseph

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Medical professionals in Haiti are warning people of the health consequences of consuming dry cat food after rumors spread that two women died from using the feline kibble to give their backsides a boost. 

“The consumption of cat kibble can make you fat, because it is rich in proteins and amino acids,” said Pierre Hugues Saint Jean, president of the Pharmacist Association in Haiti, or APH. “You won’t die from it, but it can have harmful consequences on your health.”

Health authorities must act as quickly as possible to raise awareness among young women about the consequences of pet food consumption, Saint Jean said. 

“People should not be eating cat food,” Saint Jean said. “This is an issue of lack of education.” 

The Haitian Times could not independently verify the rumor, which spread through WhatsApp and other platforms last weekend. However, some people interviewed said the idea of consuming dry cat food has been spreading around the capital for the past few weeks. 

To consume the kitty kibble, called manje mimi in Creole, it must first be washed to get rid of the smell, according to women who have tried the cat food regime. At a Pétionville street market recently, some said the washed kibble is then mixed with milk and blended into a drink, similar to a smoothie. One woman on Hiphactualité, a video blog, described a similar process.

“It sells very well, I have lots of clients, but I am not able to confirm if they buy it for their own consumption,” said Nicole Accius, a street vendor while walking through Pétion-ville. 

Up until recently, cat food was sold only in supermarkets in large bags that local merchants would then sell by the cup, or mamit. Recently, the kibble gained a new set of buyers, presumably women seeking to increase the size of their derrieres. As a result, feline food is being purchased more often in street markets, sold by vendors in cup sizes ranging from small to large, for 200 gourdes to 1,000 gourdes, about $1.80 to $9 USD.

“Concentration of amino acids such as taurine in cat food is made for the cat’s body,” Saint Jean said. “However, to the human body, it can cause cardiac arrythmias, affecting the ability to absorb micronutrients and also weight problems.”

Dr. Dietrich Jean-Paul, a general practitioner, also warned about humans consuming pet food. 

Made from flour or animal by-products, the cat food contains acrylamide, a compound used in industrial processes that is toxic to humans, Dr. Jean Paul said. They also contain dyes that have direct consequences on health, such as cardiac, digestive and obesity issues. He said long term consumption can also lead to cancer.

“People should not eat this because the human body is not made to adapt to those substances,” he said.

Asked about a potential awareness campaign, Lauré Adrien, the director of the Ministry of Health said, “It is better to talk to a veterinarian, who is better able to talk about it. I am not in a position to talk about it.” 

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