The horticulture industry in Kenya has for many years been regulated by a myriad of both public and private tools.
This is in the form of market requirements, labour standards, environmental stewardship, pesticides control and post-harvest handling of produce.
However, interceptions as a result of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and documentation issues indicate that there are still problems with the compliance of these regulations, which affects the industry, threatening its sustainability and market access.
This has further been confirmed by research that links lifestyle aliments to what people consume from uncertified food.
Unsafe food poses global health threats, endangering everyone, with infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with an underlying illness, particularly at risk.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 220 million children contract diarrhoeal diseases and 96,000 people die annually from the consumption of unsafe food.
Existing data on outbreaks and prevalence of foodborne diseases show that almost half of all foodborne diseases are caused by pathogenic micro-organisms.
Bacteria are the predominant microbial causing agent for foodborne disease worldwide, with viruses and parasites both playing a minor role.
The other main cause of diseases stems from chemical substances, such as naturally occurring toxins ( toxins from fungi and algae) or synthetic substances (agrochemicals). All industry value chain players must, therefore, follow laid down procedures to ensure that horticultural produce is handled responsibly at every point.
To support this, the Kenya Bureau of Standards in 2016 together with a technical team of industry players drafted and gazetted the KS1758 Horticulture Industry- Code of practice - Part 2: Fruits and Vegetables.
This would institute a system that would incorporate good agricultural practices, hygiene, environmental and social considerations in which food getting into our domestic markets would go through to enhance food safety.
It is against this background that a partnership of the key players in the sector seeks the establishment of a model structure to coordinate and oversee the implementation of the KS 1758 standard through an eight months pilot project.
The mechanism will seek to have structures in place for effective coordination between the national and county governments and private sector to ensure that value chain players are compliant with KS1758.
Wambui Mbarire is the CEO Retail Traders Association of Kenya