Nakuru County Government Adopts Safety Standards To Meet Quality Food Demand

For many years, only foodstuffs destined for export have been subjected to rigorous quality checks as developed markets and consumers insist on strict implementation of designed food safety global standards.

Only food verified as safe is allowed to leave the country and in case a consignment is intercepted at the point of entry suspected of noncompliance with food standards, exporters are heavily fined thus increasing the cost of production.

However, Nakuru County Executive Committee Member (CECM) in charge of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Mr Leonard Bor regrets that some of the produce declared ‘unsafe’ for human consumption and intercepted at the airports later finds its way into the local markets with traders selling them to unsuspecting consumers and as animal feeds.

Bor revealed that low adoption of food and feed safety standards has contributed to high cases of diseases, such as cancer and cited growing instances where farmers are not able to control pesticides residue.

The CECM said failure
by farmers to adopt the developed standards has contributed to high interceptions of the produce at the points of entry thus contributing to high costs to exporters.

‘But lately we have enhanced training for our local farmers and company owners on the need to implement the standards. The engagement has led to fewer seizures of the exports at points of entry,’ he stated.

Bor was speaking during a workshop organized by Micro Enterprise Support Programme Trust (MESPT) at Agriculture Training Centre in Nakuru for various government and non-government stakeholders in the food industry to deliberate on the proposed Nakuru Food and Feed Safety, Quality Control Coordination Bill 2024.

The two-day event drew participants from the Departments of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Public Health, Trade, Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), Kenya National Federation of Farmers (KENAFF), Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), a
nd the County Assembly of Nakuru, among others.

He said adoption of the standards will help in solving the health crisis consumers are currently grappling with.

‘Awareness on the safety of food that Kenyans are feeding on is low and thus the need for food value chains to team up and undertake intensive induction. Similarly, adoption of the designed standards will help in ensuring food safety right from the farm to the consumer point,’ said Mr Bor.

The CECM pointed out that Governor Susan Kihika’s administration had prioritised implementation of food and feed safety regulations in a bid to protect the residents from food-borne diseases.

He noted that Food-borne diseases are caused by contamination of food and occur at any stage of the food production, delivery and consumption chain adding that food safety standard is an all-round encompassing area of fresh produce -plant health, food safety, environmental sustainability and worker health, safety and social accountability.

Also present were Chief Officer i
n charge of Agriculture Mr Newton Mwaura, his Cooperatives counterpart Mr Kibet Kurgat, County Director of Livestock Ms Virginia Ngunjiri and her Fisheries counterpart Raymond Mwangata among others.

If enacted, the Nakuru Food and Feed Safety, Quality Control Coordination Bill 2024 will safeguard the public against contamination of food and feeds, which pose health hazards to humans and livestock.

According to Bor, the bill will also boost the quality of agricultural produce, meeting the strict physio-sanitary regulations set in the international market, such as the European Union and China, the leading buyers of Kenya’s horticultural exports.

The CECM indicated that failure to implement food safety measures exposes the public to unnecessary health risks and loss of trade, adding that the Bill also seeks to protect livestock from consuming animal feeds contaminated with toxic substances, antibiotic residues and disease vectors.

He said they were crafting a new food safety policy that provides for stringen
t regulations to ensure foodstuffs that fail to meet safety standards do not reach the market.

Bor explained that the main objective of the ‘Nakuru County Food Safety Policy’ and ‘The Nakuru County Food and Feed Safety Quality Control Coordination Bill 2024 was to protect consumers of food products from foodborne illnesses or injuries related to food consumption.

He stated that chemical and organic contaminants in food products could be partly to blame for the increase in cancer cases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that foodborne diseases are responsible for a comparable burden of illness, such as cancer and tuberculosis, in Africa, with young children bearing the brunt of it.

WHO further indicates that the resulting health cost implications and threat to productivity are incapacitating. If assented to, ‘The Nakuru County Food and Feed Safety Quality Control Coordination Bill 2024′ will ensure that there is thorough scrutiny of milk, meat, vegetables, and fruits’ suppliers to ascertain the saf
ety of their produce.

Manufacturers of animal feeds will also be closely monitored to ensure that they comply with feed safety standards in their processes.

The CECM said that the Bill is necessary to ensure that food is safely produced, distributed, processed, marketed, and prepared for human consumption from the farm.

The Bill also provides for the coordination of competent authorities, multi-annual control plans, verification of mechanisms utilized by competent authorities to enforce food and feed safety requirements, and audits of food safety or feed safety mechanisms.

While noting that food safety is inherently a public good, the CECM observed that the county and national government alone would not address the issue as it is a shared responsibility of all stakeholders: farmers, food handlers and distributors, food manufacturers, food service operators, consumers, regulators, scientists, educators, and the media.

He indicated that well-informed and empowered consumers not only protected their own int
erests but also benefited the wider market by enforcing market discipline, which encouraged producers to compete on the basis of the quality of their goods.

Mr Mwaura, said Governor Kihika’s administration has been empowering and encouraging farmers to apply Good Agricultural Practices because investment in food safety practices has enabled them to tap more lucrative markets.

The Chief Officer stated that they were providing both farmers and consumers with food safety information through public awareness and field days to enable them to become agents through their actions.

Mr Mwaura observed that public-private partnerships could also serve as an avenue for addressing food safety, with the public sector investing in food safety infrastructure to lower the barriers to entry for the private sector.

An informed private and public sector, he added, will provide a self-checking, self-sustaining, and robust food safety system.

He pointed out that food safety failures could potentially impose costs on producers
and the entire food supply chain. For instance, he explained, affected businesses might incur costs in recalling products or face a loss of market access in both domestic and foreign markets.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food security is only achieved when people have access to, among others, safe and nutritious food that is necessary for a healthy life.

The Nakuru County Food and Feed Safety Quality Control Coordination Bill 2024 also provides for traceability requirements, reference laboratories for purposes of official control, the submission of reports on food safety and feed safety to the County authorities, the appointment of compliance officers, and the powers of compliance officers.

Experts at the forum indicated that, based on research, 70 per cent of antibiotics have lost their effectiveness due to the fact that consumers find traces of them in milk and meat products.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, 1 in 10 people in the
world fall ill after eating contaminated food, and around 420,000 die each year.

Source: Kenya News Agency