Committee stops release of confiscated edible oil

National Assembly Trade Committee Chairman Kanini Kega (second right) examines a jerrycan of edible oil from a container depot in Mombasa. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Parliament has stopped the release of edible oils worth Sh10 billion confiscated by a Government multi-agency task force, a year ago, in Mombasa and directed re-testing for vitamin A.

The National Assembly Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Committee said the imported oils should be retested to confirm whether they are fit for human consumption.

The committee said it swung into action after reports that 47 out of the 503 containers of oils had been released to importers following a Government waiver.

Committee Chairman Kanini Kega (Kieni) - who led committee members on a tour of container freight stations (CFS) yesterday - wondered what led to change of heart, a year after the products were impounded.

“We have (stopped) the release of containers of edible oils to allow for retesting for vitamin A. We are giving Kebs another chance to retest the oils and give a report. If we are not satisfied, we will order an independent test,” Mr Kega said.

He said the retesting will be fast-tracked and Kenyans will know the outcome in the next 14 days.

Mr Kega said MPs were concerned about food safety in light of an increase in cancer cases. The legislator said previous tests had confirmed the oils lacked vitamin A, and if the retest confirms the same, the oils will be destroyed or returned to their countries of origin.

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Committee Vice Chairman Cornelly Serem argued that the requirement for vitamin A in edible oils came from the Health ministry so there must be a concurrency between it and the Ministry of Trade for the products to be released to the market.

“We want to get a report and minutes of Government that allowed the CS to release the edible oils. We also want to get a concurrence report from the ministry of Health that the oils are fit for human consumption,” Serem said.  

The MPs spoke at the Auto Ports CFS in Mombasa where they viewed the products packed in plastic jerrycans after a cargo container was opened. The CFS had 11 containers.

The committee said the products, whose expiry date is May next year, should not be released into the market since there was no guarantee they would sell before that date.

Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya recently dispelled fears that the products, imported mainly from Malaysia, were not fortified with vitamin A or that they were harmful to consumers.

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Kanini KegaMombasaThe National Assembly TradeIndustry and Cooperatives Committee