Residents of Mombasa County have been advised to refrain from consuming red meat from major outlets until investigations into the use of dangerous chemicals as preservatives is complete.
The county government is collecting samples of red meat from various supermarkets for testing at the government chemist in Nairobi with officials warning residents to stop buying the commodity from such outlets for the next three days pending the release of the results.
A large team of meat inspectors led by Public Health Chief Officer, Aisha Abubakar visited several supermarkets where they interrogated workers and collected meat samples.
The officials toured Nyali Naivas, Chandarana Foodplus, Tuskys and Budget supermarket in the daylong inspection exercise.
Media reports have indicated that some superstores lace meat with chemicals from the sulphites to keep the meat looking fresh for longer.
Sulphites are substances that are naturally found in some foods. They are used as an additive to maintain food colour, shelf-life and prevent the growth of fungi or bacteria.
The use of preservatives has sparked fear among consumers and raised concerns over the quality safety control of meat in the country.
Use of such preservatives has been banned in the USA because they led to negative effects such as running nose, itchy throat and nasal congestion and skin rashes among others.
Ms. Abubakar told the media team in tow during the inspection that the next round of inspections would be hotel establishments known to buy meat in large quantities.
“I am urging residents to stop consuming red meat from major outlets for the next three days or so until we get results from the government chemist because we cannot vouch for the quality of the meat as of now,” Ms. Abubakar said.
She however, said the county government will not collect meat samples from small butcheries, saying they buy fresh meat in quantities that are immediately sold out and hence they are not suspected of using preservatives.
At the Naivas Nyali supermarket, the inspection team was shocked to find empty red meat shelves as managers said they had withdrawn the product immediately after getting an alert from the county government.
The Deputy Branch Manager, Armstone Karani said they made the decision three days ago to protect the business brand from bad press.
“We get supplies of red meat thrice a week but we withdrew the product from our shelves three days ago until government carries out thorough investigations and we get the feedback. We are protecting our brand and we do not want our customers to be suspicious of the red meat,” Karani explained.
The outlet was only selling chicken and fish when the team visited as Karani said they get white meat supplies that sell out quickly and hence they do not use preservatives.
The county team however, inspected the cold room and found 50 kilos of beef which was weighed before samples were collected.
At the Chandarana Foodplus, red meat was on sale with workers, saying they had nothing to worry about.
Abubakar warned that the county government would take stern action against any outlet found to sell red meat laced with excess preservatives, including stopping it from selling the commodity.
“Once we find any business selling red meat with chemicals, we will close it down and take further punitive measures. The law will take its course,” she warned.
By Hussein Abdullahi