Sunday, January 22, 2012

We must protect the little food available

At the weekend, Kenyans were treated to an unedifying spectacle of tonnes of relief food being destroyed due to aflatoxin contamination.

Hard evidence has been presented indicating the presence of dangerous levels of toxins in cereals sold in open markets as well as in urban food distribution chains.

After the contamination of maize in 2010, the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation promised to mop up and destroy the stock.

At the same time, the Ministry of Agriculture promised to help farmers with better food drying technologies that would reduce contamination at the farm level.

But the increasing cases during distribution indicate these agencies have not lived up to their promise or are not up to the task.

It is unfortunate that a country which suffers perennial food shortages cannot protect the little that has been produced.

Although it is yet to be established at what point the most recent consignment was contaminated, previously, there have been numerous cases of food being transported while already spoilt.

Better surveillance identifying the problems at every point of the food chain would stop the transport of contaminated food.

Preventative technologies and knowledge about mitigating the incidence of aflatoxin are already out there with farmers and food processors, but it looks like these are not being enforced both at individual and official regulatory levels.

So far, the issue of food contamination has been handled casually and we feel it is time this was brought to the fore as a major food security concern because we cannot afford this kind of waste.

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