The Government had been warned of a developing food safety crisis in Nairobi as early as January.
In January, data on the safety of street foods in Nairobi had shown that one out of every three servings was contaminated with germs dangerous to human health.
This study by the Kenya Medical Research Institute and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) had advised the ministry not to license any untrained food handlers.
“There is need for the Ministry of Health to set effective food safety training requirements before issuing a licence to any street food vendor and also carry out regular inspections to ensure compliance.”
The study carried out in Gikomba and Guthurai, Nairobi, found high levels of contamination in all types of street foods.
Of 218 food samples collected from 149 vendors, 34 per cent were contaminated with various disease-causing germs.
The study overseen by Peter Wanzala of Kemri however found contamination with human faecal matter or feacal coliforms as high as 100 per cent in some types of foods such as boiled eggs with “kachumbari” (salad).
The most highly contaminated with feacal coliforms, which analysis showed to carry the disease-causing bacteria E.coli, were sausages/smokies and kachumbari.
“This may have been due to the excessive post-handling process since it involves cutting of the sausage/smokies and inserting the kachumbari which mainly includes raw vegetables that require adequate washing with clean water,” says the report.
Other highly contaminated foods were mutura, ugali and madodo (boiled beans).
The report appears in the International Journal of Innovative Research and Advanced Studies.
The authors led by Emmah Nyambura Kariuki of JKUAT warned that food contamination in highly populated areas was an indication of a disease outbreak in the waiting.
With a highly mobile population in Nairobi, the researchers had warned that it was only a matter of time before the contamination spread to other parts of the city.
True to the prediction the Division of Vector-Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases of the Ministry of Health, University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University in March reported extensive food contamination in formal establishments within the Central Business District.
The team had collected and tested more than 671 samples of meat, pork and milk from butcheries, supermarkets and a local pork processing factory.
“Overall, 36.2 per cent of samples collected from food outlets and 39.4 per cent from the processing factory were contaminated with the bacteria called S. aureus.
The bacterium is responsible for a host of diseases including skin, bone infections including a type of arthritis as well as pneumonia.
The germs were found in foods people in Nairobi consume every day or buy to take home including yogurt, raw milk, pasteurised milk and even milk from supermarket dispensers.
Popular meat types sampled and found contaminated included cooked salami, fresh sausages, uncooked ham, hot dog and raw pork.
However, this high rate of contamination of human food in Nairobi was not the biggest scare for the research team.
Most tragic, the team says in the current issue of the East African Medical Journal, was confirmation that almost all strains of S. aureus collected from the foods were impossible to kill with available medicines.