Kenyans drink a lot of milk. Various studies estimate that Kenyans consume between 50 and 100 litres of milk per person each year and consumption is growing much more rapidly than meat consumption, for example.
In Nairobi, even poor households consume around a litre a week. Milk is considered by many as the perfect food: after all, it is designed by nature to meet all the needs of rapidly growing offspring. However, because milk is so highly nutritious, it is also good at feeding bacteria and other germs.
Moreover, milk can be contaminated from many different sources: foods that the cow eats, chemicals and antibiotics used on the farm or along the supply chain, or even substances deliberately added to milk.
And unfortunately, because milk is associated with goodness and purity and is a favourite food for children, scares about milk safety are guaranteed to get lots of attention, even if the stories are actually urban myths.
The Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) have the legal mandate of ensuring consumer protection in the food industry.
Article 43(1a) of the Constitution guarantees every Kenyan a right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to safe food. The MoH is mandated to secure and maintain health under Cap 242 laws of Kenya.
The KDB has the regulatory objectives of promoting compliance to milk quality and safety standards, protecting consumers from harmful milk and milk products, promoting fair competition and trading practices and promoting domestic and international trade.
The Kenya National Food Safety Policy that is currently at the cabinet level awaiting presidential assent focuses on integrating farm- to- fork food safety system that ensures protection of public safety and food trade in Kenya.
In moving forward, there is need for increased investment in the dairy sector by both national and county governments in terms of laboratories for tastings, equipment for farmers, trainings for the supply chain actor and intense awareness campaigns for consumers on issues of safety and loss reductions as an empowerment process to enhance their surveillance role in ensuring accountability by players along the value chain.
Joan Kebenei is a programme assistant, Consumer Unity and Trust Society International.