Sela Panapasa

Obesity, diabetes, and hypertension have become epidemic among Pacific Islanders. In 2007, the Republic of Samoa decided the problem was so bad it banned two particularly fatty foods—turkey tails and New Zealand mutton flaps. But Samoa’s food bans broke World Trade Organization rules, so the island nation agreed to lift the ban beginning last month, according to a May 9 segment on NPR’s All Things Considered. No one claims turkey tails or mutton flaps alone caused Pacific Islanders’ ill health. But ISR researcher Sela Panapasa, who has studied the worsening health problems of Pacific Islanders, told NPR that before the arrival of cheap foreign foods, Samoans mostly ate fish and vegetables and obesity was not out of control. Turkey tails became a common food on island tables after their post-World War II introduction, Panapasa said, because they’re both tasty and cheap. “I know it may seem ironic, but fish and native staple foods do cost more than turkey tails,” she said.