Sulphites not allowed in meat, tests underway: Health ministry

Tuesday July 16 2019

A file photo of outgoing Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Following revelations that some meat sellers are harming buyers in their use of preservatives, the Health ministry has collected samples from random establishments for testing.

In a statement seen on Tuesday, Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said the samples will be analysed at national public health laboratories.

"The results of the analysis will be shared with the public immediately they are out," Ms Kariuki said.


An NTV exposé revealed the actions supermarkets and other establishments take to keep their meat looking fresh for long, thereby preventing losses.

The investigation raised questions regarding quality and safety controls within the country’s food chain.


The most preferred chemicals belong to the sulphite family as they not only retard spoilage, but also keep meat looking fresh.

The ministry noted that the use of Sodium Metabisulfite (usually called sulphites) is "not permitted in meat and meat products, including poultry and game meat".

It said sulphites are food additives permitted for use in specified food categories.


The minister directed all county public health departments to heighten surveillance in all supermarkets, butcheries, meat processors and other food business operators.

"[This will] ascertain any presence of additives not permitted for use in meat and meat products," Ms Kariuki said.

She also asked counties to scale up and and prioritise implementation of public health measures that will help keep the people safe, alongside enforcement of existing laws.

These measures include ensuring food safety, managing sewage and waste water and controlling pollution.

Others are surveillance on the safety of drinking water and prevention of all types of public health nuisances.


The ministry took note of a case in May 2016 that followed a public complaint on the use of formalin in meat.

Ms Kariuki said the testing of random samples found the meat was not contaminated, but noted that the ministry remains vigilant when it comes to such complaints.

"We will ensure public complaints are addressed to their factual conclusion," said the statement dated July 15.

Ms Kariuki warned food business operators that failure to comply with provisions will result in legal action including seizure and destruction of food items as well as closure of premises.