Revision of rules will improve dairy sector

According to Article 43 of the Kenya Constitution 2010, Kenyans have a constitutional right to be free from hunger by accessing adequate food of acceptable quality.

The right to food is also part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Political Rights and is a fundamental aspect of human dignity.

For this right to be brought to life, however, we need to increase productivity and improve the safety of our food products.

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Milk is an integral part of our daily diet. Milk and milk products contain a good balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates and are important sources of other essential nutrients, including calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc and vitamins.

Milk is also processed into a wide range of milk products to suit the varied tastes and preferences of consumers.

Manufacturing industry

Yet to truly benefit from the nutritional and health benefits of milk and milk products, it is important that both operational and product requirements in the dairy value chain are met.

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These requirements are clearly defined in various statutes such as the Public Health Act, Food, Drugs and Chemical Substances Act, Dairy Industry Act and Standards Act.

The benchmark for quality and safety is established by the relevant Kenyan dairy standards that specify the limits for physical, chemical, and microbiological parameters.

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Kenyan codes of practice such as the code of hygienic practice for milk and milk products and the code of hygienic practice in the food and drink manufacturing industry serve to guide dairy business operators on good hygienic practices in production of quality and safe milk and milk products.

To ensure these hygienic standards are met, a farm to glass food safety management approach is vital.

To be sure the milk you drink or the cheese you eat is safe, vigilance right from production is crucial.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) at the farm level lead  to the production of safe raw milk that is free of pathogenic microorganisms, antibiotics, aflatoxins and other contaminants that can be harmful to human health.

The practices which include environmental and personnel hygiene, equipment and utensil hygiene, animal welfare and feeding and milking practices affect the quality and safety of raw milk.

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On the other hand, implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices in collection, bulking, processing, distribution and retailing of milk and milk products ensure the value addition processes are controlled so as to deliver quality and safe products to consumers.

In addition, implementation of food safety management systems such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points and ISO 22000 builds a systematic preventive approach to food safety in the dairy value chain.

Without adequate controls, milk and milk products can be a source of microorganisms which cause serious diseases such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, and cholera. High residual levels of aflatoxins, antibiotics, pesticides, and heavy metals, beyond the maximum prescribed limits, are of great concern due to harmful effects on public health and trade.

A strong dairy regulatory framework at the national and county levels is required to ensure milk and milk products comply to quality and safety requirements. It will protect consumers, enhance private sector participation, boost investment in the dairy industry and promote trade in milk and milk products, not just here, but in the external markets as well.

Regulatory framework

A proud member of the international community, Kenya has to align its regulations with global international standards for agricultural trade arrangements as enshrined under World Trade Organisation, which we ratified in 1995.

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The sanitary and phytosanitary standards agreement relates to regulations around labeling requirements, nutrition claims and concerns, quality and packaging regulations. The regulations also address microbiological contamination of food, allowable levels of pesticide or veterinary drug residues, permitted food additives and packaging requirements.

Therefore,  there is need to safeguard food safety and promote quality assurance to consumers here and beyond borders. It is with this in mind that Kenya Dairy Board is revising the dairy regulations with the objective of strengthening the dairy regulatory framework for the benefit of dairy business operators, consumers, and the public at large. We look forward to continuous engagement and support from stakeholders to build a strong dairy industry that provides health and wealth for all stakeholders.

Ms Kibogy is the Managing Director, Kenya Dairy Board.

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ConstitutionWorld Trade OrganisationMilkKenya Dairy Board