The Government has raised concern over the health risk some farmers exposed to consumers by selling them produce that were either premature or laced with crop chemicals they had sprayed.
Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) acting Director General Kello Harsama raised the red flag during a press conference at his Dagoreti Corner Office, claimed that the farmers and traders in the value chains disregarded the outlined food safety regulations thus contributing to the emergence of terminal ailments like cancer.
He expressed fears that the sale of contaminated food in big open-air markets was worrying and could cause a health crisis if not tamed saying many unsuspecting consumers were exposed to harmful foodstuffs.
“Most of the fresh produce being sold in the markets are premature while others are fresh chemical spray that are not authorized by the Pest Control and Poisons Board (PCPB),” he said.
He said some farmers do not wait for the chemicals to dissipate after spraying the fresh produce like tomatoes and vegetables but are in hurry to make returns contrary to the set safety measures before harvesting thus exposing customers to health risks.
He appealed to farmers and value chain players involved in food production to abide by food safety regulations especially when it comes to chemical application more for those in horticulture.
The DG raised the alarm during celebration to mark World Food Safety week as AFA carries out sensitization in major markets in Nairobi on safe food .
He noted the positive response by players in the potato sub sector to adopt the new packaging regulations adding that a spot check revealed that the new rule was successful in Meru and Nyandarua counties where a multi-agency team had enforced the new law.
“We are extending to other counties to ensure the new regulation cuts across the country to weed out the cartels who were abetting the trend to exploit and milk the farmers dry’ he said
Harsama further said that shortly the government will be moving to restore the rice sector which has also seen farmers discouraged and demoralized because of the challenges they are encountering such as adulteration of rice.
“The challenges such as the mixing of imported pishori with the local mwea rice has become a common occurrence and such malpractice must be addressed to streamline the sector.’ He added.
The DG said there is need to be sure of rice safety through regulations to make local rice more competitive market.
On the Maize sector, Harsama explained that the Government will soon commence random tests of maize aflatoxin levels in counties and processing firms to maintain food safety in the country.
“In conjunction with County Governments and other value chains we will soon start unplanned tests of aflatoxins in maize and equally check levels of chemicals in other produce, like tomatoes and greens,” he added.
Harsama noted that the flow of maize from Uganda and Tanzania was restored but insisted that testing of aflatoxin must be observed at all times to ensure safety of consumers.
“Opening our borders for importation of maize does not mean we have slowed our aflatoxin testing”.
Tom Anjere Deputy County Commissioner in charge of Dagoreti Sub County said the multi-agency group that has been deployed to help in enforcing the Crops (Irish Potato) Regulations 2019 has for the last two days been sensitizing traders in major markets to adhere to the law.
Speaking to the media after a sensitisation exercise at Kawangware Market, Anjere said the team will ensure the regulations are followed to the latter to ensure unethical behaviours by a section of the potato subsector are fully tamed.
“Ours is very simple –to enforce the regulations as they are. The team of regular police officers, agriculture officers and inspectors drawn from AFA will intensify crackdown of the crooked traders until they comply,” said Anjere.
The Multi agencies are visiting the major markets of Kawangware, Wakulima, Kangemi, Highridge, and Korogocho to sensitize and enforce the potato regulations
Patrick Ndegwa, Chairman of the Kangemi market Potato sellers, however said that if the government does not enforce the potato regulations at farm level, it will be very difficult for them since as traders they buy the already extended bags that come to the market.
“We are ready to follow the rules but the government should not harass the traders since we get the extended bags here in the market. Let them enforce the 50 kg bag at farm level and across all potato growing counties”, he said.
By Wangari Ndirangu