Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has clarified that tested sugar samples did not contain mercury but other metallic elements.
Matiang’i said he only used the term ‘mercury’ as a precautionary measure to the public.
The Cabinet secretary said his earlier statement that the sugar contained mercury was to deter Kenyans from consuming the sugar.
This came as he tabled a report before a joint parliamentary committee on Trade and Agriculture.
He further said that although he made the ‘mercury’ statement as a precautionary measure, he could not rule out the possibility that the deadly metallic element was present in contraband goods.
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While appearing before the Kanini Kega (Trade) and Adan Mohamed (Agriculture) joint team, the CS said confiscated contraband goods worth Sh1.2 billion had been tested and found not to be fit for consumption.
He said the goods that contain harmful metallic elements, which if consumed would have far reaching effects on Kenyans, include substandard fertiliser, rice and household goods.
“We are holding 1.2 million bags of contaminated sugar which will not be released to the market. We have written to the Attorney General for direction on how we can destroy the goods,” said Matiang’i.
He further said commodities that were found to be of good quality would be released into the market.
“Can you tell this committee how you came to the conclusion that the seized sugar now being held contains mercury? Where did you test the samples and which Government agency conducted the tests?” posed Funyula MP Mudenyo Oundo.
Matiang’i confirmed that 72 suspects involved in the illegal imports have already been arrested even as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations intensified investigations.
He cited porous borders as the biggest challenge to the fight against illicit trade. He said the borders were aiding infiltration of counterfeit and contraband goods.
Matiang’i said more security personnel would be deployed to the borders and at the entry points to deal with illicit activities and illegal movement of goods.
He was accompanied by Chief Administrative Secretary Patrick ole Ntutu, the PS Karanja Kibicho and Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet.
Matiang’i said they were still testing the goods. “We want to get rid of illicit trade and clean up the mess that has been in the country. We are still carrying out tests on the samples in our custody and any other product we suspect entered the country illegally. Once this is done, I will report back,” Matiang’i told the MPs.