Influence of food taboos on nutritional patterns in rural communities in Cameroon

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Abstract

Food taboos are observed in all traditional societies. In Cameroon, various taboos ranging from food to religious and social have significant impact on the diet of the people. Specific food items are regarded differently by different communities. While in certain communities, some food items are seen as fit for consumption, others deem it unfit. Although food taboos related to culture are more subject to change due to the level of literacy that prevails in the society and due to cultural contacts, violators of taboos suffer grievous consequences. Methods used included key informant interviews, focus group discussions and observations in all studied communities. The objective of the study is to understand how culture (food taboos) influences consumption patterns in traditional communities and the impact of disobedience on the people. This study of Cameroon food taboos has showed that dietary rules and regulations govern particular phases of life and is associated with special events like pregnancy, childbirth, lactation etc. In traditional societies, festivities such as hunting, wedding, and funeral are marked by specific food items. Punishments to violation of food taboos vary across food items and communities as what are considered a taboo in one community is not a taboo in another. Food taboo in some communities is considered as a way to maintain identity creating a sense of belonging.

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