Dr Victor Yamo is the council chairman of the Kenya Veterinary Association (KVA) and works for World Animal Protection, an animal welfare organisation. He spoke to Leopold Obi on consumption of uninspected meat and what role farmers can play to curb the practice.
So many cases of people consuming uninspected meat are coming to the fore. What could be the reason for this practice?
There are increasing levels of poverty within the communities making meat unaffordable and there is also ignorance on the need to eat inspected wholesome meat.
This is also applied in the case where stray wild animals like an elephant or hippo are killed and shared by the masses.
People justify this action by saying that they cannot afford meat on a regular basis. Their ignorance is displayed by the fact that they are not even aware that such meat should be inspected before it can be eaten.
Most of us are not aware that there is a correlation between what we eat and how it was handled through its production on the farm, its transportation to the slaughter house, the slaughter process and ultimately the transportation of the final product to the retail outlet.
It is prudent to note that meat inspection is not limited to inspecting the carcass but includes inspection of the animal when it is still alive (ante-mortem inspection) to determine if it is suffering from any adverse conditions before allowing it to be slaughtered humanely (with minimal suffering) as that process affects the quality of the final product.
Once humanely slaughtered and the blood drained, the animal then undergoes post-mortem inspection to ensure it is fit for human consumption. Handling of the meat from this point can lead to contamination of the product with adverse effects on the quality of the product leading to food safety issues. This is why awareness is important.
Are there policy gaps that are fanning consumption of uninspected meat?
We have very good pieces of legislation on meat inspection but our only challenge is implementation.
We have the Meat Control Act Cap 356 and its supplementary regulations which if enforced would adequately ensure that the Kenyan consumers eat a healthy product as the Act provides for how control should be exercised over meat and meat products intended for human consumption, slaughter houses and where meat is processed including control of import and export of meats.
The gap brought about by the change of our governance structure due to changes in the constitution has been adequately addressed in the soon to be enacted Veterinary Policy, which gives clear guidelines on the role of the county vis a vis that of the national government.
What we need to do is to simply sensitise the general public for them to understand the dangers of eating uninspected meats.
Cow, goat, pig and sheep meat from major abattoirs is inspected before being sold in the market, but this is not the case for chicken, why?
There is a misconception that chicken meat is not inspected. In reality, chicken from all major abattoirs namely Kenchic, QMP and Bradegate, are all inspected by the Directorate of Veterinary Services team as per the Meat Control Act (Poultry Meat Inspection Regulations of 1975).
If you go to any of these major abattoirs, you will find government meat inspectors doing the job just like they do for other meats.
You can also confirm that the chicken meat is inspected by sampling the same at the supermarkets. On the package of each chicken product there is inscription showing the meat is inspected. Most chicken slaughtered at home, however, is not inspected.
Are there any risks with consuming uninspected meat?
There are risks for consuming uninspected meat. These include the risk of getting infected with diseases that can affect man (zoonotic conditions) such as Salnonellosis in the case of chicken and consuming meat with harmful antibiotic residues.
Uninspected meat is also poorly handled, which makes it prone to contamination with disease causing organisms from the environment in which it is slaughtered which ultimately lead to food poisoning when it is consumed.
What role can farmers play in ensuring sick animals do not end up in the market?
Sick animals should be treated and not sold. When an animal falls sick, a farmers should seek urgent veterinary advice so that it is treated. I think part of our problem is that we really don’t have commercial farmers who understand that a sick animal will not fetch you good returns.
Most of our farmers are subsistence hence when an animal falls sick, they believe in selling it which even leads to further losses as they don’t really make money. It is also important to make the farmers understand that when an animal dies, under no circumstance should it be eaten.
What specific actions should farmers take when their animal dies?
When a cow dies, for instance, a veterinary authority should be consulted to confirm the cause of death. There are certain diseases which are called “notifiable diseases”, meaning they have a public health or economic implications.
By involving vets, the authorities are able to know which diseases are occurring where so that they come up with a national strategy for controlling them.
It helps in managing impending disease outbreaks and the government can now decide to roll out vaccination programmes against such diseases like anthrax.
However, when you are going to have a feast, you are supposed to slaughter the animal and do post-mortem inspection. The slaughtering process should also be humane. After that the carcass is inspected to ensure that it is fit for human consumption.
Meat inspection is important to ensure the meal that you put on the table is wholesome and will not have adverse effects on the consumer.
Carcasses are inspected to understand if the animal is sick or has been undergoing treatment, in which case it should not be slaughtered within a certain period because the antibiotics used during treatment can stay in the meat of the animal between three to five days while some as long as a month.