Food safety key in reducing contamination-related diseases

The public should be sensitised on food safety standards in order to keep contamination-related diseases at bay.

This is particularly necessary in the slums where fraudsters take advantage of the low income earners to sell unauthorised food products.

These were some of the sentiments which emerged last weekend at the closure of a food safety campaign in Nairobi.

Dubbed Social Media Food Safety Campaign, the three-month crusade aimed at enhancing food safety, quality and trade.

It was an initiative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) Standards and Market Access Programme (SMAP).

The campaign was implemented by Value Chain Consultancy Limited.

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

The campaign reached out to over 20 million people with messages on food safety and quality through social media platforms.

Value Chain Consultancy Director, Dr Charles Odhong, said there is still a lot to be done in sensitising the public on food safety practices.

“We were amazed by the kind of responses we got online and were able to identify with the gaps between people and safe food,” he said.

Some of the issues which the campaign focused on included washing hands before and after handling food, as well as using different chopping boards for various foods like meat and vegetables.

The initial preparations of this campaign involved interviewing a sample population of 396 respondents within Nairobi.

Participants during the closure of the food

Participants during the closure of the food safety campaign at Sarova Panafric in Nairobi. The campaign reached out to over 20 million people with messages on food safety. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

WASHING HANDS

Despite the fact that most people indicated that they wash hands before handling food, 20 per cent confessed to do the same only sometimes.

More than 40 per cent of respondents also reported that they rarely chill left-over food within two hours as they should.

Majority of the respondents did not know that there is bacteria in the skin, nose and mouth of healthy handlers.

However, they were able to tell that children, pregnant women, healthy adults and older individuals are at equal risk of food poisoning.

“The biggest challenge in ensuring food safety within Kenya is more profoundly within the local markets where most residents get their supply,” reads the report.

GOOD AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES

Often, the report reads, it is assumed that all produce getting into Kenyan local markets have to adhere with good agricultural practices.

However, chances of adherence are very low due to weak enforcement mechanisms as a result of few staff directly engaged in supervision of farmers during production.

Over the last two years, SMAP has been partnering with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis), Department of Veterinary Services, among others, in enhancing food safety and expanding markets both locally and internationally.

The programme focuses on meat, honey, horticulture, dairy and aquaculture sectors.

An SMS text verifying if product is certified

An SMS text verifying if product is certified by Kebs. The public can verify if products are certified via mobile phones services. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

MOBILE PHONE VERIFICATION

Kebs Director of Quality Assurance Eric Chesire said the public can verify if products are certified via mobile phones services.

According to him, all a consumer needs is to send a text message with the product’s brand name or standardisation mark permit number to 22203.

“You simply type SM#brand name or standardisation mark permit number and SMS to 20023 from a Safaricom line,” he said.

While Kebs as a regulator plays its role in ensuring food and other products are safe, Mr Chesire challenged the public to blow the trumpet any time they suspect that fake goods, especially food, are on sale.

Unido’s representative to Kenya, Eritria and South Sudan, Emmanuel Kalenzi, hailed SMAP programme saying it had come at a time when food safety and market access is of greatest need.

FOOD SAFETY AND MEDIA

Funded by the European Union (EU), SMAP has trained various players in the agricultural sector in the food safety and market access.

They include agronomists, slaughterhouse operators and fish farmers among others.

Mr Kalenzi asked the media to publish and air educative programmes on issues of food safety for a healthy society.

EU head of macroeconomics, governance and private sector, Vincent de Boer, said players in the food chain should always have in mind the safety and health of consumers.

While attention is often paid on produce for export, the necessary standards, he added, should also be taken while targeting the local market.

He said while some unhealthy practices had immediate side effects, others like aflatoxin may take time to show symptoms.

He, therefore, said that each food category should be handled bearing in mind the immediate and future effects.

Mr de Boer added that SMAP had been well received in Kenya, adding that the programme has had a big impact in the country’s agricultural sector.

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