Pacific Scoop

Critics challenge exports of mutton flaps, turkey tails and expired eggs to Samoa

Mutton flaps banned in New Zealand and US but not in Samoa. (Photo:

Fatty food imports, such as mutton flaps and turkey tails – waste products from affluent countries – are a cause of obesity in the Pacific and have been criticised in the NZ Medical Journal.

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Rose Rees-Owen

Alma Hayes returned from her two-week holiday in Samoa, refreshed and rejuvenated. She talks of beautiful sunsets on tranquil beaches and delicious and fresh produce.

“You can’t get much fresher than going out to the banana tree and whacking off a bunch for breakfast,” she says. However, Hayes stayed in fales with breakfast and dinner included.

“Our diet was really regulated by what our host served us,” she admits.

There is a paradox between what tourists such as Hayes experience and what many local Samoans eat – supermarkets and markets in Samoa frequently sell imported fatty, mutton flaps, turkey tails and unsafe to eat eggs.

An article titled “New Zealand’s impact on health in the South Pacific: Scope for improvement?” in the New Zealand Medical Journal has warned “excess consumption of imported food, especially imported fatty meats, has a causative relationship with endemic obesity in the Pacific”.

According to Islands Business, the most relevant survey on obesity in Samoa was done by STEP in 2002, and claims that 85.2 percent of the population in Samoa is obese.

The magazine also cites figures saying that 81.1 percent of men are obese or overweight and 89.8 percent of women are obese or overweight.

‘Clean, green’

Critics condemn “clean, green” New Zealand for contributing to these statistics.

Mutton flaps are fatty scraps of sheep meat. They contain 27.4 gm of fat per 100 gm and New Zealand is a major exporter.

The Medical Journal article says: “From July 2006 to July 2007, NZ$73 million of sheep meat was exported to the Pacific Islands, constituting New Zealand’s largest export good to the Pacific.”

Co-author of the article in the NZ Medical Journal and associate public health professor at the University of Otago, Dr Nick Wilson, wrote: “I think it is really disgraceful for a wealthy country like New Zealand to export such unhealthy food.

“What is the point of giving Pacific countries development assistance on one hand – and then spreading heart disease epidemics via our hazardous exports on the other.”

Another fatty meat regularly sold in Samoa is turkey tails.

They are imported from the United States of America and contain an even higher fat content than mutton flaps.

“Turkey tails top the fat content chart with 32 grams of fat per 100 grams,” reports Islands Business.

Poor nutrition

Jason Garman, media and communications adviser for Oxfam New Zealand, says turkey tails have poor nutritional values.

“They are the fattiest part of the turkey. Most Americans don’t even know they exist and wouldn’t consider eating them.”

So why are Samoans and the wider Pacific allowing these nutrition imports?

Dr Roman Grynberg, a Pacific authority on trade, says the reason is simple – many Pacific Islanders are poor “and these foods are cheap”.

“Local healthy foods such as fresh fish, vegetables and root crops are much more expensive,” he says.

Edwin Tamasese, a domestic egg farmer in Samoa, is saddened by the quality of eggs imported from the US.

Since March, imported eggs have been forced to put a use-by-date on their products but Tamasese laments that this has not changed much for domestic egg farmers.

60-day labels

“Importers are putting a 60-day sell by date on the cartons instead of the 30-day sell by date that California uses.”

This means that when eggs are close to expiring in California, the US can dump them on Samoa, and recover some of their losses.

The major health risk due to the eggs being in the market place for 30 extra days is the presence of Salmonella enteritidus in American poultry.

“With the increased selling time there is a much higher probability of deadly bacteria within the eggs,” says Tamasese.

The cheap, imported eggs have intruded heavily on the business of domestic egg farmers.

Tamasese says that the imported eggs have created an “uneven playing field”.

The imbalance is responsible for the closure of 13 out of 15 farms on the island, and the remaining two are under severe pressure.

“Domestic producers now only supply approximately 10 – 15 per cent of the market,” says Tamasese.

Documentary on diet

Mark Dolan’s controversial documentary, The World’s Fattest Families and Me, was broadcast recently.

Dolan journeyed to Tonga where he met Towa, 222 kg, and his daughter Sia, 133kg.

The documentary touched many when Dolan took Sia to the supermarket, and showed Sia the nutritional value in the fatty mutton flaps.

He told Sia New Zealanders did not eat this.

“This is the bit that they throw away,” he said. Sia broke down in tears.

The documentary exposed that there are no food export regulations in place.


Sue Kedgely, Green Party MP and spokesperson for food, health and wellbeing, said: “New Zealand has a hands-off free trade approach to trade, and government seems to stand back and allow exporters to more or less do what they want.”

Commercial interests take priority over the health of poor nations, such as Samoa.

“Trade is not neutral, it can have devastating effects on nations but trade occurs in a context where poverty in our region is endemic and power is used by our neighbours to further their own commercial interests,” says Dr Grynberg.

Dr Grynberg also comments that mutton flaps would be processed into pet food in New Zealand, and by exporting the flaps cheap to the Pacific, suppliers can sell their product at a higher price to humans.

Nick Braxton, advocacy and research coordinator of Oxfam New Zealand, says the Samoan government is trying to ban turkey tails from being imported because of their poor nutritional value.
But because turkey tails are a waste product in the United States, and are generating profit, the US is opposing the ban.

NZ threat

The NZ Medical Journal says that Fiji banned mutton flap imports in 2000 and New Zealand responded by threatening to refer the issue to the World Trade Organisation because it goes against the policy of free trade between the two nations.

However, the threat was later dropped and the ban stands.

Dr Grynberg believes that it is an issue of giving the masses what they want, and that is the reason why the government has not taken action.

“Any Pacific Islands government that heavily taxes these products or bans them will suffer the ire of the working poor at the elections and so the issue is largely avoided.” Dr Grynberg said.

Rose Rees-Owen is a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.


  1. Jeremy, 7. October 2010, 17:26

    Samoans,…We need to wake up,..Look at what they selling you
    back home,..flaps and turkey tail that will cause heart failure?.
    survery says 81.1 % of men are over weight and 89.9% of women?
    need to take good care of yourselfs,…..we are alot better country
    than excepting waste from anywhere else…

  2. Lene, 8. October 2010, 1:12

    Thank you to the experts and those involved in educating and bringing this matter into public view. This is a serious matter and it’s just shameful that developed/powerful countries would take advantage of developing poor countries like in the Pacific to trade and dump their wasteful products, knowing that humans in their own respective nations wouldnt even eat those products. I agree with one expert who stated that the simple reason why Pacific nations buy these fatty products is because they’re poor and these items are being sold to them at a cheap rate. I’ve been to Samoa many times and often wondered why several families there buy and cook mutton flaps instead of chicken or fish. But I’ve come to understand the answer was that mutton flaps were cheap. This is a serious health problem and think all Pacific nations including developed countries like US and New Zealand should work together to find solutions to alleviate the trading of these fatty products. The egg matter should be seriously reviewed to see why the 30 day expiration is not enforced even when such items are transported internationally because it can be a health hazard and if people get sick and die then someone or a company should be made responsible. This world would be a very beautiful place if everyone, businesses, and nations follow the Lord’s “Golden Rule” and apply it to their business models and tradings, because the Pacific is paradise and people there deserves to be treated with respect and dignity just like all other human beings. This article reminds me about all the time I’d thought about “corn beef” and that it’s not a samoan food. It’s very fatty, full of oil and it’s another big export produced in NZ, and it’s just wrong advertisement making this product seem like samoan made when it’s absolutely not and it’s very unhealthy and pricy. I plea with Pacific govt leaders to take this matter seriously and not think more about money issue but the health of the public at large and future consequences if govt continue to allow import of such fatty products. Please ban or limit them and focus more on locally grown crops, fruits, veggies, fish, and eggs, which have more nutritional value, and this method too will help local farmers to stimulate their businesses.

  3. Liu Muri, 8. October 2010, 6:17

    There is nothing stopping the Samoan or the other Pacific Governments to pass laws to protect their citizens from animal waste products from developed nations, passed as human food..

    They need to learn from Fiji which has banned the importation of Lamb Flaps for many years now. If Samoans and their Governments are concerned about the health of their population, they need to walk their talk on protecting their people from animal waste products that Kiwi may not even feed to their dogs. They just send them to the Islands.

    They say, if you feed the Islanders your crap and waste products for long, it becomes part of the culture. Please stop this rot now, for the sake of the new generation.

  4. terry, 8. October 2010, 11:04

    tongans eat dogs, french eat horses and chinese (south) eat frogs..reality is, different people eat different food..lamb flaps is actually not cheap ($5+ a pound) in samoa, beef is cheaper..but people still buy it because they like it (esp. cooked in the umu)..the same way they like pisupo and mulipipi..i eat mamoe everyday but i also go to the gym, climb mountains and play rugby and have a’s not what you eat, it’s how much you take out..
    Edwin is talking rubbish, there’s hardly any local eggs in the supermarkets (none available in the villages) ..they can’t supply the market..last time i looked local eggs cost $8 a dozen..but people still prefer it..

  5. terry, 8. October 2010, 11:08

    oh, and fresh fish is very cheap in samoa..costs about US5 for a big chunk of tuna, albacore, skipjack, mahimahi, reef fish, etc at the local fish market..

  6. Rosemary Kent, 8. October 2010, 11:49

    But of course, ALL things we eat, and do….BY CHOICE, MUST be done in moderation! I miss my muli-pipi when I go to Samoa and I TRULY ENJOY MY mutton flaps. Thanks for sharing and caring…BUT…what I eat and purchase IS my choice, poor or not. That’s what makes life anywhere….a JOY…especially my mackerel…pilikaki with coconut’epe’e or miti and freshly baked ‘ulu and fa’i and taro! Oh, do not forget plenty of onions, and a little bit of curry…Lady, did U try our favorite caviar….palolo and fai’ai fe’e, and good ole plain JUST coconut cream in taroleaves…palusami/lu’au and fai’ai…how about eel and coconut cream and shrimps from the rivers of Papaloloa? Samoa’s the best when it comes to FOOD….Yuuuuuummmmmmieeeeee!

  7. New-way, 11. October 2010, 15:19

    Nah, Niue is the best in the Pacific, so get your facts right.

  8. Maxwell, 14. October 2010, 3:22

    Just eat what our ancestors did for 1,000s of years Pre-European arrival.

    Pork, Seafood, Wild birds, coconut, breadfruit, bananas, taro, yam, manioc, INDIGINEOUS fruit, local greens (taro leaves, kapisi, etc) and anything that wasnt introduced by the european settlers.

    Notice what WASN’T consumed: processed sugar, white flour, grain/seed oils (soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, rapeseed) not just own their own but the way these ingredients are included in various foods such as Corned Beef, Sauces, etc.

    They survived in some of the most remote places on earth for generations without all of our modern luxuries just fine. Not saying to live the way they did – just learn from their dietary habits and combine this with your modern lifestyle and you’ll go along way to keeping out of the hospitals and corporate drug manufacturers pockets.

    Faa malosi

  9. Joe Wasia, 16. October 2011, 2:59

    There is a need for more research studies in this area in urban, peri-urban areas and in rural areas of Papua New Guinea. From there, the extent of lamp flaps consumptions and obesity from urban areas to rural areas would be clearly identified in all settings in Papua New Guinea. Until then, a decision undertaken by the Papua New Guinea Government on the proposed ban of lamp flaps would be relevant, appropriate and fair to all settings in Papua New Guinea.

    At the meantime lamp flaps should not be banned in Papua New Guinea. Rather the lamp flaps importation from overseas should be regulated so that the parts of commercial sheep that contain 80% saturated fats must be removed and only the quality lamp meats must be imported for human consumptions as it has a great effect on human health.

    If regulation of the lamp flaps importation is poor it can be completely banned and supplemented with other meat products. The government must give financial support to local companies that are interested in piggery business, poultry, and cattle framing and others through National Development Bank, Agriculture bank or may be direct funding from the Finance and treasury.

    The prices of these locally produced foods will be much cheaper and healthier than the imported meats and meats products. A healthy population means a healthy and productive nation.