Report reveals seized sugar contains Mercury

Some of the 1,350 bags of sugar packed in 50kg bags impounded by a Multi-agency officers team of from Public Health, KEBS, KRA, DCI and Police officers at a warehouse belonging to Kanini Supermarket in Nakuru. [Photo:Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Tests by the Government Chemist have revealed some of the impounded sugar had traces of mercury.

The fresh report contradicts tests by Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) that indicated there was no mercury, but only traces of copper and lead in the sugar impounded in Eastleigh and Ruiru.

A document obtained by The Standard indicates that 0.5910 per parts per million (ppm) mercury were found in sugar sample from Bungoma, while tests done on another sample in Nairobi revealed 0.1151 parts per million of the heavy metal.

The document dated July 9 indicated that further tests were going on.

Claims of mercury contamination were first made by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i when the Government launched a crackdown on contraband sugar across the country.

The Government Chemist is under the Interior Ministry. The tests further detected traces of copper, lead and higher moisture content in the samples tested.

Mercury is harmful to human as it causes damages to brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system as well as being toxic to central nervous system.

Yesterday, a Government official confirmed the findings, but refused to be on record since the report has not been made public officially by the ministry.

Interior Ministry Communication Officer Mwenda Njoka declined to comment on the report, only saying that, “I can confirm that the CS Matiang'i talked about mercury in some of the tested samples and he must have been sure about what he was talking about."

And Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Opiyo Wandayi said following the latest report, all the seized sugar should be destroyed to safeguard the public from consuming contaminated sugar.

The revelation emerged even as the joint Parliamentary Committee of Agriculture and Trade said that it will not table its detailed report today as it was still waiting for some reports from Government agencies.

The committee co-chair Kanini Kega told The Standard that the team expects further reports from Kebs and other agencies .

He said the committee was yet to receive the report by the Government Chemist that indicated the sugar had traces of mercury.

“We are yet to get certain results carried on the seized sugar and we are waiting for it before we can conclude on the report. We want to give the public a detailed report and we expect some of the results by Wednesday,” said Kega.

Tests by Kebs had indicated that most of the sugar impounded from importers was unfit for human consumption.

Kebs had told MPs that it found traces of copper and lead in sugar seized in Eastleigh and Ruiri. However, no traces of mercury had been found so far.

The agency said it had so far tested 1,266,351 bags (50kg bags) out of the 1,319,668 bags impounded. Out of the 1.3 million bags, only 157,392 met standards required for human consumption.

The probe team had been informed that some sugar barons allowed to import the commodity duty-free sold brown sugar at Mombasa port before reprocessing it.