Members of Parliament have questioned a decision by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to release 48 impounded containers of edible oils into the market.
The consignment is part of 487 containers of edible vegetable cooking oil imports impounded in May 2018 due to low vitamin A content.
Kebs told Parliament the released containers belonging to Master Freight Ltd had proved compliant on a re-test after an appeal by the importer.
“What changed in a span of four months for the consignment to be compliant when it was tested in October 2018 and failed the first test?” said Kanini Kega (Kieni MP), who chairs the National Assembly Trade and Coopoeratives committee.
The law requires that all edible oils manufactured and sold in Kenya be fortified with vitamin A to address, among other things, infertility, stunted growth in children and night blindness.
Kebs said the re-testing of the Master Freight cargo was done “within the framework of the multiagency guidelines”.
“The edible oil is fit for human consumption,” Kebs manging director Benard Njiraini told the committee.
He said of the 487 impounded containers 295 had been declared fit, 82 pending declaration and 63 had been shipped out.
In August, the committee halted the release of the containers containing edible oil, most of which was imported from Asian countries.
Industry, Trade and Cooperatives secretary Peter Munya, had ordered the release following issuance of a waiver to the importers.
Mr Njiraini told MPs that external factors could have compromised Vitami A levels in the edible oils.
“Vitamin A is a very unstable element, meaning that the edible oil was fortified but had degraded due to environmental factors and transportation,” he said.
He noted that this was what informed the waiver approved by the National Standards Council (NSC).
The MPs pointed out that the bone of contention was that the consignments were released without concurrence with the Ministry of Health, contrary to what was prescribed by a resolution by the NSC.
In its resolution, the NSC resolved that the Trade and Industrialisation CS in consultation with his Health counterpart grant a waiver on fortification requirements for the consignments on condition that the importers withdraw all suits against Kebs.
In September last year, a group of clearing and forwarding agents sued the Kebs after the agency declined to clear their Sh800 million edible oil imports.
The companies protested the directive by Kebs asking them to re-ship the consignment back to the Malaysia, the country of origin, within 30 days after it allegedly failed to comply with requirement of the vitamin A standard.