Not even Kebs ban can keep Kenyans off ugali

A plate of Ugali and steak. Kebs banned five brands of flour containing high levels of Aflatoxin. [File, Standard]
A number of maize flour brands blacklisted by the Kenya Bureau of Standard (Kebs) are still on sale.

Kebs on Saturday released a statement informing the public to avoid Dola Maize Meal by Kitui Flour Mills, Kifaru Maize Meal by Alpha Grain Limited, Starehe Maize Meal by Pan African Grain Millers, Two Ten Maize Meal by Kenblest Limited and Jembe Maize Meal by Kensalrise Limited.

The brands were blacklisted due to high levels of aflatoxin, beyond the maximum limit.

“Following continued market surveillance as well as multiple public reports, Kenya Bureau of Standards has noted that some brands of maize meal products do not meet the requirements of Kenya Standards,” read the statement from Kebs.

SEE ALSO :The big ugali lie

Kebs suspended the permits of the companies and instructed them to discontinue distributing the brands. It directed the manufacturers to recall the substandard maize flour from the market and institute corrective actions.

A spot check around supermarkets and retail outlets in Mombasa found some are still holding the banned maize flour brands, 48 hours after Kebs announced a crackdown on them.

Caught unawares

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At one of the stores in Likoni, the Dola brand - the one kilogramme packs - was still on display yesterday.

Officials at the premises, which is popular with shoppers, were not readily available for comment by the time of going to press.

SEE ALSO :Trader, wife in court for allegedly possessing counterfeit flour

Stunned residents expressed their displeasure at the ban, saying that it had caught them unawares.

"We are low-income earners and buy food in bulk. My family of six bought three bundles of unga (one of the banned brands) last week. We do not know whether to heed the Kebs ban and dispose off the unga. I have no money to replace the flour anyway," said Mr Francis Juma, a casual worker at a construction site.

At the Dola milling plant in Majengo, we encountered several delivery trucks parked at the factory bay.

Workers interviewed said that the machines were not running anymore and referred us to their seniors who were out of office till Monday (today).

A shopkeeper, Awadh Osman, said he had been forced to comply with the order to avoid getting on the wrong side of the law.

"I had to comply even though I was going to make huge losses since I had bought stocks that could last for a whole month," Osman said.

Preferred brands

Rose Adhiambo, a Nairobi resident, said she was sure she had at one time or the other consumed one or more of the blacklisted maize flour brands.

She, however, said her favourite brands were not in the list.

"I don't think I will be comfortable buying them, especially after we have been informed that they contain high levels of aflatoxin," said Adhiambo.

A spot check around supermarkets in Nairobi's Central Business District showed that retailers had adhered to the directive.

At Tuskys, Naivas, Eastmatt and Choppies supermarkets, the brands were unavailable. Only the wheat flour brand of Dola was available.

Alpha Grain Millers, the manufacturers of Kifaru maize flour, said in a statement that they responded to a letter from Kebs dated November 7, 2019 and took samples from the shelves and tested.

"We proceeded to withdraw the batch in question and subjected it to internal and external testing upon which the results of tolerance levels were much lower (1.51ppb) than the allowed maximum limit of 10ppb (parts per billion)," the statement read in part.

Alpha Grain Millers distanced itself from Kebs' allegations assuring the public that their products are fit for human consumption.

Retail Traders Association of Kenya (Retrak), which is the umbrella body for retailers, said they had to comply with Kebs instructions.

“When told to withdraw we have no choice but to comply and return the products to the manufacturer,” said Wambui Mbarire, Retrak Chief Executive.

She said they had made losses due to the withdrawal, but there was little they could do.

Faith Nafula, a psychologist, said even though people may know that a certain food is poisonous, they will continue to eat it because they are used to it.

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UgaliMaize flourKebsAflatoxin