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Alarm on meat safety

By Francis Njenga

As Christmas draws closer, many people are busy making grand plans on how they will spend the holiday. 

Beside the frenzied hustle and bustle of travelling experienced at the time, the season is also characterised by massive feasting and merry-making. And almost always during this time, no feast is complete without meat.

It could be roast meat, stewed, fried or boiled. There are those who will go for bone meat,  chops or steak, while others would prefer the softer parts like iron rich liver. Somewhere, there are those whose holiday won’t be complete without chicken; fish will be a must for others and is also consumed in great quantities; not forgetting pork too.

Whatever the case; whether it is bought from butcheries or slaughtered in own homes; beef or mutton remains the only type of meat consumed in the greatest quantities during Christmas. But it also turns out to be the greatest spoiler of the season.

“When it comes to buying red meat, one should take extra precautions especially during the festive season,” says Dr Darlingtone Kadenge, the Rift Valley Deputy Provincial Director of Veterinary Services responsible for meat hygiene.

“A well-prepared carcass, which is stored in the right conditions and has received no treatment for preservation purposes should remain on your butcher window for only three days,” says Kadenge. Thereafter, it can degenerate fast, to become unfit for human consumption.

However, due to the consumerism wave of the season, profiteers stretch their luck too far, often with disastrous effects. Many are the times that the joy of Christmas has been cut short and turned into distress after family members suffered severe food poisoning following consumption of rotten meat.

Strangely, when it comes to buying meat, Kenyans are excessively meek and will hardly protest when the butcher openly corrupts their cuts with foul smelling pieces of meat; bone chippings or fat.

“Take it or leave it!” some even arrogantly dare you; “the carcass will still sell out anyway.” Yet many customers will still go back to the same place, over and over. This is even worse when it is a child buying.

Agnes Gatitu, the Nakuru Meat Inspector Officer at Bondeni municipal slaughterhouse, advises Kenyans to be careful when buying meat.  “If you go to butchery and find that the meat is dark in colour, never buy it, she warns. This means the animal was poorly bled or it was slaughtered long after death!


Gatitu says that a carcass from an inadequately bled animal goes to waste very fast as blood is an excellent medium for bacterial growth and multiplication. Within a few days, the carcass will turn from dark red to a greenish colour, which is an outright indication of milliards of bacteria.

“When meat gets to this condition, it is already not only dry and foul smelling, but very toxic and dangerous if consumed,” says Gatutu. Unfortunately, her duties and responsibilities end once she has inspected the meat at the slaughterhouse. It is not within her scope, but that of the public health department, to follow it down to points of sale.

Contacted, Paul Waititu, a Senior Public Health Officer at Nakuru Municipal Council concurred that it was within their mandate and responsibility to ensure safe handling of meat at the butcheries. Besides regular inspections, the handler on demand must produce certificate of meat transport.

Kenya’s public health by-laws of 1994, and revised in 2008, section 21 part three says, “Any person who cuts meat bone for sale or otherwise to the general public without the use of a hacksaw shall be guilty of an offence punishable by a fine of Sh15,000, or six months imprisonment for first offenders, and Sh25,000, or nine months imprisonment for subsequent offenders. Besides, wrapping meat in a newspaper is prohibited and punishable too.

Besides poor bleeding of animals, according to Dr Kadenge, other factors, which lead to fast meat deterioration, include unhygienic slaughter, contamination, poor transportation and storage in poorly ventilated meat shops. He advises that people keep meat between two to eight degrees celsius. However, this also depends on different regions as meat condition worsens fast in hot climates.

Bad meat

For those who love the irresistible mutura and supu, do it at your own risk. Often, what happens is that when meat displayed for sale goes stale on the window, and it is impossible to sell it anymore, it’s pulled down, boiled, minced and recycled into these products. Other times, the ingredients are rarely the ordinary meat and may contain anything from game, donkey, dog or meat of animals, which die on the streets, including placentas of animals.

“In many butcheries, hardly any meat is discarded as owners do everything to recover costs and make profits,” warns Samson Kimani, a meat attendant at a popular butchery along Nakuru-Nairobi highway. He says he never had to this as he orders just enough for his customers who comprise mostly of motorists and hundreds of truck drivers along the busy highway.

“When demand is high, I requests by phone for additional supply to last another day or two, before the regular stock arrives,” said Kimani. He agrees that some of the meat sold in many parts of the country may not be meat from domesticated animals.

 Many times wild animals including dogs and cats are crushed by fast moving vehicles. Some people collect these remains, which they use to make samosas and mutura,” said Kimani.

Kimani advices customers to insist on fresh meat and accept nothing less, as this could affect their health anbadd the health of family members negatively.



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