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The bleaching chemical used by Kenyan butchers to make meat look fresh
By Vincent Kejitan | Updated Sep 10, 2018 at 11:18 EAT
Meat in a butchery

Kenyan butchers are said to be using large quantities of sodium metabisulfite to preserve meat

The chemical is mixed with water and smeared on meat to give it a fresh look

A recent investigation revealed that most butchers in Kenya are adding a killer chemical to preserve meat.

The butchers are said to be using large quantities of sodium metabisulfite- a white powdery chemical locally referred to as dawa ya nyama (the meat drug) - to make meat look fresh.

The chemical, which is used as a bleaching agent in some creams, is usually mixed with water and once smeared on meat which has been in the butchery for weeks, it gives it a fresh red look, duping unsuspecting customers.

It is actually available in chemists and agrovets for around Sh650 per 500-gram container.

According to laboratory tests carried out on meat samples purchased from supermarkets and butcheries in Nairobi and its environs in 2017, over 98 milligrams of sodium metabisulfite per kilogram of minced meat was detected.

Scientists say the chemical can cause cancer and by international standards, fresh meat is not supposed to contain any preservative.

Although the Health Ministry prohibits the use of chemicals to preserve meat, retail outlets have claimed they have not received any complaints from consumers regarding the quality of the meat.

“This is adulteration. The use of chemicals is illegal and the meat is not up to standard,” said Dr. Kepha Ombacho, Director of Public Health.

The Ministry has standardized preservation methods which include salting, deep freezing, and smoking, all of which are harmless.

Other uses of sodium metabisulfite include; removing tree stumps, a bleaching agent in the production of coconut cream and in water treatment to quench chlorine residual.

It may cause allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to sulfites including respiratory reactions in asthmatics and anaphylaxis among others.

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