The Government has conceded that a sizeable portion of foodstuff on sale across the county is unfit for human consumption.
Tests by Government agencies on samples of basic food commodities including cooking oil, rice and sugar taken from retail outlets in various counties showed that a significant amount did not meet safety requirements.
In particular, nearly 70 per cent of cooking oil sampled turned out to be below standard, and hundreds of containers imported from Malaysia had been turned away.
Up to 396,928 bags of sugar seized from various shops did not meet safety standards, while 188 bags of rice in Nairobi and 200 in Mombasa were seized in the process of being repackaged into new bags with extended expiry dates.
The tests also revealed that poor storage and mishandling was rampant in outlets across the country.
Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya yesterday revealed that standards compliance rates for samples tested so far stood at 68.8 per cent while the level of failure stood at 31.2 per cent.
Although the CS clarified that no metals such as mercury, lead, copper or arsenic had been detected so far, the parameters that sugar failed included moisture content, yeast and mould, colour, total viable count and polarisation.
“These figures are indicative of poor handling during storage. I therefore urge businesses and the general public to store and handle sugar in a hygienic manner,” Mr Munya said.
He expressed concern about the safety of cooking oil on sale in the country. Out of 763 containers imported through various ports of entry, about 484 failed to meet the standards on Vitamin A.
The 484 containers were rejected and the importers directed to re-ship them to other countries outside the East Africa region, while 118 are awaiting completion of tests. Only 161 containers were found to be compliant and released into the market.
On rice, the CS said 388 bags seized in Nairobi and Mombasa were being re-packaged into newly dated bags.
However, Munya's data contradicted information issued by Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti, who had earlier announced that one million bags of toxic rice had been impounded by detectives.
The CS defended the discrepancy.
“We are two different entities with different mandates. The DCI may have different information from what we are giving you but eventually we shall converge,” he said.
The CS said since the multi-agency operation on contraband sugar began three months ago, 1,717,334 bags had been seized. Out of these, 396,928 bags did not meet standards while 354,628 had been cleared for the market.
Munya said 1,024,778 bags seized belonged to companies that had prior authorisation to import sugar, with clear intentions of subjecting it to further processing.
The CS said all sugar that failed Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) tests would be destroyed.
On fertiliser, Kebs says it has drawn samples representing 1,125 containers that have been imported. Of these, 170 complied with the relevant standards while 361 failed.
Samples representing 594 containers are pending completion of tests.
A number of importers have appealed the test outcome and asked for re-testing. The request has been granted and is ongoing, according to Munya.
“We want to make sure that consumers’ health is protected. We will carry out a preventive measure. We want to ensure that Kenya is not reduced to a supermarket of sub-standard products coming from elsewhere in the world. Any Government officer either in Kebs or any other agency who helps to aid this trade will face action,” the CS warned.