Columnists

Educate counties about consuming safe dairy products

milk

Milk processing at Brookside dairy factory in Ruiru. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Dairy industry is the single largest sub sector of agriculture in Kenya contributing to the national economy, household incomes and food security.

According to the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) the sector contributes 14 per cent to the agricultural GDP and 4.5 per cent to the overall Kenya GDP.

Hence, a well-developed dairy sector would contribute significantly to the country’s food security and to the attainment of one of the key pillars of Big Four Agenda of the government.

Dairy is private sector driven with formal and informal market segments. Data from the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that 80 per cent of the milk consumed in Kenya is purchased from small-scale vendors in informal markets.

Informal markets are often preferred for being cheaper, more flexibility in quantity sold, more accessible outlets, including home delivery.

The safety of Kenyan consumers is guaranteed under the Constitution and legislation.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is mandated to secure and maintain health under Cap 242 laws of Kenya. KDB has the mandate of promoting compliance to milk quality and safety standards, among other roles.

In a bid to ensure safety in the dairy sector, the government has developed various food regulations, including the 2013 National Dairy Development policy that proposes certification of small-scale raw milk vendors on safe handling practices and adoption of low cost technologies for small scale dairy investors; and training on milk testing.

In addition, Kenya’s National Food Safety Policy of 2013 recommends a broad set of policy interventions to improve food safety in the country.

These include the establishment of a National Food Safety Law and a National Food Safety Authority through which government activities related to food safety would be coordinated; investment in training of stakeholders, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), on food safety and regulatory compliance.

In spite of the above, consumer safety in the dairy sector still remains a challenge as many unscrupulous value chain actors, including informal milk vendors have been caught up in actions that compromise milk safety by introduction of contaminants detrimental to the safety of consumers in a bid to maximise profits.

READ: Regulator moves to ensure safety of dairy products

According to various studies, milk marketed by both formal and informal venders often fall short of the microbial load standard limits, posing health hazards to unsuspecting consumers.

While advancing with the food safety agenda at the national level remains important, counties should adopt many of the recommendations contained in these policy documents.

National and county governments should run awareness campaigns to consumers on safety concerns in the dairy sector for empowerment.

This will protect their interests and benefit the wider market by ensuring market discipline and encourage producers to compete on the basis of quality of their goods and services.

Martin Mulwa, Programme Assistant, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), Nairobi.