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Retailers strengthen fresh food safety, cuts Sh72billion losses

Kenya’s formal retailers have committed to heighten the quality of fresh foods sold across their outlets countrywide as they ramp up efforts to reduce food waste and loss.

With Kenya losing 5.2 million tons annually to food waste and each individual throwing away nearly 100 kilograms of food every year, all estimated at Sh72 billion, the situation is dire.

Under the umbrella Retail Trade Association of Kenya (RETRAK), the players have moved to strengthen the requisition, handling, storage and display processes, facilities and resources using a mix of better standard operating procedures, quality management systems and investments in basic fresh food testing equipment that can handle fruits, vegetables and grains to validate levels of microbes and chemicals.

Speaking during a workshop organized by RETRAK to discuss retail food loss and waste in Nairobi, CEO Wambui Mbarire said that retailers are continuously working to raise the standards of food accessed by consumers.

This, Mbarire said, will see the retailers collaborating with their fresh produce suppliers to institute more stringent quality management systems, detailed operating procedures, active product quality verification and continuous staff training.

She added that retailers have identified food waste as a frivolous use of natural resources that drives up the cost of production, inflates food prices and weakens the food supply chain.

Further, Mbarire noted that resultant food loss impacts food security, quality, and safety, economic development and the environment in general thus making food loss of high importance in efforts to combat hunger, raise farmer incomes and improve the country’s overall food security situation.

“The fresh food sections of retailers are some of the fastest growing offerings and with rising demand, we recognize that it is important to create industry standards, facilities and skill sets that are necessary to sustain the suppliers by reducing the food that is wasted due to various mishaps while at the same time delivering higher quality shelf offerings to consumers,” said Mbarire, adding that each outlet will analyze its data to identify how much fresh food is wasted, where and when the waste occurs, and come up with solutions.

She pointed out that these steps were within the purview of the retailers but that for them to make even greater progress with handling food waste, it will be necessary to review Kenya’s Public Health Act.

The Act, Mbarire said, gives no guidelines on how unsold safe food coming out of Supermarkets and other eateries can be handled to benefit, at the very least, feeding programs in the society.

She noted that a review of the Act will seek to establish legislation that gives retailers and suppliers leeway to donate and process unsold fresh foods through creative value addition.

By Catherine Muindi

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