By E. Kivuva
Consumer organizations in Kenya are holding public forums with counties in Central, Rift Valley and Nyanza regions to sensitize consumers and area residents on the safety of milk and other foodstuffs.
The organizations through their newly formed national umbrella- Consumer Voice of Kenya and under the ‘Voice for Change initiative’ have raised high concerns of adulteration of milk using water, chemicals, margarine and wheat flour to change colour and increase quantities for sale in the market.
The networks include Consumer Downtown Association, CUTS, CIN, Kenya Consumer Organisation and Consumer Grassroots Association, also in coalition with public health officers, Kenya Dairy Board, Kenya Bureau of Standards among other representatives.
A report by the African Policy Research Institute has shown that milk is being faced by standards compromise during transportation, and storage in higher temperatures outside the refrigerator.
The report, Status of Food Safety in Kenya, was revealed during one of the public forums held in Ongata Rongai in conjunction with Livestock Directorate from Kajiado County.
The organisations now want high-level training and certification of milk informal vendors and marketing channels through controlling authorities and Kenya Dairy Board.
Other sensitizations have been carried out in Homabay and Bomet counties.
“There are weak monitoring and surveillance systems at the domestic level and the lack of traceability systems in place means that no one can be held accountable for unsafe food. This calls for more consumer awareness programmes,” Rongai MCA Pere Mwathi said.
The report marries to a similar one by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) that was also uncovered on the day, stating that low-income household holds the largest category in the Kenyan pyramid in terms of milk consumption volumes.
And while they want to pay a premium to better quality and safe their purchasing power may not be possible.
“There’s is a need for consumers to be aware of what they are buying as well as what the informal vendors are selling,” Nadhem Mtimet from ILRI said.
“However, there is no general fact that the higher-priced or processed is safer and of better quality compared to raw (pasteurised) milk.”
The report has shown producers, hawkers or mobile traders and milk bars are the main suppliers of raw milk to consumers in the rural and peri-urban areas. The purchase of pasteurised milk from vending machines or ATMs is also increasing importance among low and middle-income consumers due to its lower price and it’s expected to become the first stop for buyers the product. This is as they are installed in supermarkets. “If low-income consumers are forced to shift from raw milk (low price) and purchase packaged or processed which is highly-priced may decline their consumption. Hence need to ensure the quality of what they can afford,” Mtimet added.
The report comes amid high prices of packaged milk in stores despite high supply in the country.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data has also shown the volumes increased to 443 million litres on the first eight months of the year, up from 406 million in the corresponding period last year.
Photo courtesy of snv.org/update/story-change-consumer-led-alliances-improved-milk-quality-kenya
“There’s is a need for access of milk to low-income housing especially in slum areas and can’t completely do away with the ATMs. However, the conventional and nutritional value of the milk has to be considered through harmonised standards,” KDB regional manager Nairobi Mwaniki said.
The board has announced to ramp up market surveillance of samples.
Consumer Downtown Association executive director Japheth Ogutu has said the desired food safety would be achieved through the long awaited Food Safety policy 2013 which is under review to create a common stop authority.
“No stakeholder can purport to be working alone on the food safety issue. To be able to achieve the overall goal on food safety, we must accept we have failed and recollected our heads together, develop a clear framework and act jointly,” Ogutu said.
He said that government through agriculture and health ministries should ensure relevant stakeholders have been incorporated in the authority being created to provide a lasting solution to food safety issues in Kenya.