- Government Chemist confirms presence of aflatoxin in Nuteez peanut butter.
- Nuteez producer, Jetlak Foods, however, says they have not received notification from the ministry.
- Long-term or chronic exposure to aflatoxins has several health consequences and may affect all organ systems, especially the liver and kidneys.
The Nuteez peanut butter brand has been recalled from supermarket shelves for contamination with cancer-causing aflatoxin.
Director of Public Health Kepha Ombacho on Thursday said that the department had withdrawn from the market batches of peanut butter that had exceeded by more than double the set aflatoxin standard.
“We issued the circular to have the batches withdrawn from the market and be subjected to random tests. Going forward, we will prefer legal charges against them. Yes, that option is open,” said Mr Ombacho in an interview.
“All other batches of the same product (should be) sampled and submitted to the laboratory for analysis to ensure safety,” he added in a statement released later in the day.
Jetlak Foods Limited, the Ruiru-based manufacturer of Nuteez, confirmed that their products were detained but added they had no access to them despite the fact that they had not received any formal communication from the relevant ministries.
“We do not have access to our products and we think this is unfair because we cannot even test it ourselves to confirm it is indeed true,” said the Jetlak managing director Anup Bid.
Government Chemist official John Kibuthi said tests had confirmed Nuteez had aflatoxin contamination of up to 24.08 parts per billion against the East African Community standard of 10 parts per billion.
What is aflatoxin?
“Aflatoxin is a natural product and is poisonous. We could consume it in all kinds of cereals and so the level in our country has to be different based on what we consume. Now, their product had 24.08 parts per billion against our recommendation of 10 parts per billion, it may seem little but it can be lethal,” he said.
He said aflatoxin consumption could cause acute or cumulative side effects depending on the levels taken in.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), large doses of aflatoxins lead to acute poisoning (aflatoxicosis) that can be life-threatening, usually through damage to the liver.
Long-term or chronic exposure to aflatoxins has several health consequences and may affect all organ systems, especially the liver and kidneys. It can also cause liver cancer.
The Jetlak MD, however, tried to allay fears over the amount of aflatoxin levels in Nuteez, arguing that some countries have set the standards at up to 30 parts per billion, triple the allowed limit in Kenya.
Linus Kogo, the Nandi County Public Health Officer who sent the lab samples to the Government Chemist, Thursday said the consignment was impounded during a routine inspection.
“We found them transporting cosmetics, juice and the peanut butter and asked for a medical certificate and food hygiene licence from their staff, which they did not have. We suspected contamination and tested random samples from just one batch whose results you have seen. We still have two other batches to test,” said Mr Kogo.