Well done Kebs, but more vigilance needed
Over the weekend, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned the sale of five maize flour brands and suspended licences of the millers.
According to the agency, the affected brands—Dola, 210, Jembe, Starehe and Kifaru—had above-normal levels of aflatoxin and, therefore, unfit for human consumption.
And just last week, Kebs suspended seven peanut butter brands for almost similar reasons. The manufacturers were ordered to withdraw the products from the shelves.
This is alarming because aflatoxin, toxic compounds produced by certain moulds found in food, can cause liver damage and cancer.
The ban, while welcome, leaves many questions lingering on safety of the food and other consumable products on sale a cross the country. The Kebs revelation—either out of enhanced vigilance or happenstance—comes against the background of increased cancer cases in the country.
That the millers and distributors of the maize flour have been in operation and unsuspecting Kenyans have been consuming the harmful products is a serious indictment on the authorities that bear the task of quality control. Serious questions must be asked on level of surveillance to protect consumers from such products.
This concern may not be just for Kebs alone because there are incidences of criminal dereliction of duty by many quality and other public agencies that have left Kenyans at the mercy of greedy individuals and firms keen to make money at the expense of the health of consumers.
Unfortunately, this happens because of collusion between the perpetrators of such crimes and dirty watchdog agencies.
There is, therefore, need for the government to not only build capacity in Kebs and other food safety agencies, but to weed out the rogue State officials whose greed is killing fellow citizens.
At another level, more consumer awareness will be critical to drive home the message that safety begins with you. Consumers must be part of the war by being vigilant on what they buy and consume.
And in this case, the matter of maize, and by extension ugali, is serious because it is the staple for millions in the country. Ugali touches every home, literally.