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Health CS orders probe on meat preservatives

Sicily Kariuki
Health Secretary Sicily Kariuki. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Health Secretary Sicily Kariuki has stated that use of Sodium Metabisulfite for preservation of meat is not permitted in the country as the ministry launched investigations into the presence of the chemicals in products sold at retail stores.

In a statement Tuesday, Ms Kariuki said the Ministry of Health has already collected samples from various food outlets for analysis to be conducted at the National Public Health Laboratories.

An expose by NTV on Sunday revealed how supermarkets are using high levels of Sodium Metabisulfite to keep their meat fresh for longer.

The Health CS said the food additive is allowed for use in specified food categories, but is “not permitted in meat and meat products, including poultry and game meat.”

“The Ministry of Health has collected random samples from various outlets for analysis at different outlets and has directed all County Public Health Departments to undertake heightened surveillance in all supermarkets and
butcheries to ascertain any presence of additives not permitted for use in meat and meat products,” said Ms Kariuki.

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Set standards

She said public health officials countrywide have also been directed to ensure meat processors and other food business operators comply with the set standards.

“The Ministry of Health directs all food business operators to observe the provisions and requirements of food safety and hygiene practices to ensure safety of the consumer,” she added.

Ms Kariuki said the results of the analysis will be shared with the public immediately they are out.

Naivas Supermarket Tuesday denied the use of the preservative in their meat products.

“At Naivas we only accept meat that has been certified by government veterinary officers at the slaughter house and thereafter we put it in a cold truck to our central butchery where we maintain temperatures of below three degrees Celsius,” said Willy Kimani, the Naivas chief commercial officer.

Mr Kimani said the retailer does not use preservatives ‘as it cannot even meet the daily demand by customers.’

The NTV expose did not name the three supermarkets from which the samples were collected.

Stiff penalties

The Consumers Federation of Kenya (CofeK) lobby Tuesday called on the government to impose stiff penalties on retail shops that would be found culpable of using preservatives that are not permitted.

“We equally hope that relevant agencies will start conducting multi-agency surveillance and instant onsite testing,” said Cofek secretary-general Stephen Mutoro.

Mr Mutoro also wants the government to set up an inter-ministerial taskforce compromising Ministries of Internal Security, Health, Agriculture and Trade together with Council of Governors and other non-State agencies to look into the matter.

The official also wants the issue of preservatives in meat examined alongside chemicals that are used in fast-tracking ripening in bananas and other fruits.

The Law Society of Kenya has demanded immediate action on supermarkets that use illegal and harmful chemicals to preserve meat.

In a letter to the Health Secretary, the Kenya Bureau of Standards and the Council of Governors, LSK chief executive Mercy Wambua said steps should be taken to ensure harmful food is no longer sold in supermarkets.

“Prosecute and publish the names of any persons engaged in the sale of unwholesome, poisonous, adulterated foods and ensure their licenses are cancelled upon conviction,” she said.

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