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Maize scam deepens as consignment ‘disappears’

BUSINESS
By | March 7th 2009

By Elizabeth Mwai

The Sh300 million new maize scam deepened after the Public Health Minister Beth Mugo claimed the consignment had disappeared.

Mugo, who seemed to contradict Prime Minister Raila Odinga over the quality of the maize, warned that it may have been sneaked into the market.

"There is a lot of intrigue over this maize which is unfit for human and animal consumption. Somebody wants to sacrifice the lives of Kenyans for a profit," said Mugo.

She was apparently reacting to Raila’s report that results from a private company, Intertek, had declared the maize fit for human consumption.

The Prime Minister accused unscrupulous traders of deliberately condemning the maize so as to sell it in Southern Sudan. The maize was imported last month to boost the country’s grain strategic reserves at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Mugo has insisted that the officials of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) declared the maize unfit for human consumption.

Kebs falls under the Industrialisation ministry headed by Mr Henry Kosgey, who is also ODM’s national chairman.

In an interview with The Standard On Saturday, Mugo said although the 6,350 metric tonnes maize are valuable, it was not worth sacrificing the lives of Kenyans.

She questioned why the Cabinet sub-committee on food security, which is chaired by Raila, went to a private laboratory instead of using Government institutions.

She said the samples taken by the private laboratory would not reflect the true state of the maize as they had been offloaded and landed in private hands without inspection by relevant authorities.

The minister said only 95 tonnes of bad maize had been returned while the remaining 6,255 tonnes had been released into the market.

Mugo now wants to know who cleared the maize from the ports and where it is.

She expressed fears that Kenyans could be consuming contaminated maize.

Maize samples

"We hope it is not in the food chain but whoever is responsible for this maize should have shipped it back if they were honest persons," said Mugo.

The Minister said Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is the body charged with clearing goods while it is the mandate of Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to ensure rejected goods are shipped back.

Mugo said the Government Chemist had scooped samples that are representative of the whole batch and concluded that the maize was contaminated.

She said the consignment which arrived in November last year was in four batches and some of them were contaminated with aluminum phosphate.

The minister said the Government Chemists and the Kenya Bureau of Standards observed the standard regulations in taking the samples and conducting the tests.

Her ministry, she said, did not contract Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) to do any tests as alleged. She said the two Government institutions results were similar and they concluded that the unfit maize should be shipped back to country of origin, South Africa.

The Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr John Kariuki says when a person consumes food laced with aluminum phosphate, he is are likely to suffer from renal failure, mental and skin problems. The complications could be fatal.

He said some of the symptoms of poisoning include skin sensation, headache, coughing, pain in the chest, and shortness of breath

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