Strengthen policies to ensure food safety


Some county governments have shut down meat selling outlets. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The recent Red Alert expose’ by the NTV team on how supermarkets use toxic chemicals to keep meat fresh so as to avoid losses is appalling and alarming to say the least. The specific lethal chemical sodium Metabisulphate can cause serious pernicious health side effects such as nasal congestion, itchy throat, running nose among others.

This is a clear indication of how government officials at the helm of Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) are lax in their duties and are in fact just having a field day at the expense citizens lives.

What is vexing and concerning is that this revelation is not the first of its kind. A year ago, the authorities seized more than 1,000 bags of illegally imported sugar that posed serious health risks to members of the public.

As a matter of fact, Interior Secretary Fred Matiang'i told the media that harmful and highly toxic levels of mercury and copper had been found in samples tested from the sugar that was seized in the Eastleigh area.

Kebs, a national standards body that is mandated to provide standardisation, metrology and conformity assessment, has failed Kenyans to the bone and it seems that there is perennial underhand malpractice in the food industry.

Kenyans are made believe that once a product has a Kebs label then it must be safe for consumption, but evidently nothing could be farther from the truth. Clearly, a worrying and nerve-wrecking trend is being set and those mandated to ensure that the public consume high quality goods have also been caught flat footed by these incidents.

A fundamental question many Kenyans are grappling with is whether the institution should be abolished or reconstructed.

The closing of six meat retailer shops by the Nairobi County Government, and other counties is merely scratching the surface and a knee-jerk reaction to a situation that could have otherwise been avoided.

The retailers were allegedly selling meat laced with this toxic chemical in excess amounts. The health safety enforcers ought to have been vigilant and alert on the kind of food being sold to consumers and ensured it met all the recommended safety standards.

Kenyans pay monumental amounts in taxes and they deserve proper service delivery. The food chain process from production to consumption needs to be strictly and regularly inspected.

Effective and efficient surveillance system of the entire process is the most urgent way forward that Kenyans require. At this point in time, a swathe of Kenyans is at risk of contracting a raft of diseases some with lifelong enervating effects.

My parting shot is we should adopt adequate and rigorous investigations and a methodical approach to tackling the problems.

Proper food hygiene and safety is a big agenda for the government and the time has come for it to be given serious attention.

Lucia Nyasuna, Nairobi.