Supermarkets still stock and sell contaminated meat

Friday September 06 2019

A steak of meat. Supermarkets still stock and sell contaminated meat that have been preserved using sodium metabisulfite. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Most supermarkets still stock and sell meat preserved using a banned chemical, Ministry of Health has revealed.

In sample tests, the Health ministry found that four out of 201 meat samples from supermarkets in nine counties still contained high levels of meat preservative, sodium metabisulfite.


This comes almost two months since an NTV exposé revealed how unscrupulous businesses were using the poisonous chemical to preserve meat products.

The Ministry however, did not list the types of meat it tested in the latest analysis.

Meat taken from some supermarkets in Kiambu, Machakos and Tharaka Nithi were found to contain the preservative. Ten of the 27 samples taken from Nakuru are yet to be released.


"Some of the supermarkets apply the preservative in excess of the recommended maximum levels,” read in part a statement sent to newsrooms.

County governments initiated prosecution of the owners of the supermarkets and meat outlets which were found to have meat and meat products exceeding the maximum permitted limits of sodium metabisulfite, the Ministry added.

"The court cases are ongoing and current status can be availed by counties," the statement said.

The safe application levels have been evaluated and risk assessment conducted and approved by the Codex Committee on Food Additives, where the Ministry participates.

The ministry reiterated that it is illegal to sell meat and meat products which do not comply with provisions of the Food, Drugs and Chemical Substances Act, Chapter 254.

Ministry of Health has further called on counties to sustain surveillance of meat and meat products among other food safety activities, and enforce the law.

Sodium metabisulphite is a whitish, powdery compound that resembles glucose and is commonly known as dawa ya nyama (the meat drug).


Although sources at the Health ministry indicated the chemical was not allowed in any meat products, this preservative has for a long time been in use in butcheries and supermarkets.
An NTV exposé revealed how butchers mixed the powder with water and sprayed it on the meat to give it a crisp, reddish colour, which made customers believe the beef was fresh.

The exposé led to a crackdown which saw some meat shops, among them Muthaiga Fine Meats Ltd, Tuskys Buruburu, Naivas Mavoko and Tuskys Kenyatta Avenue closed down.
Others like Naivas Supermarket suspended the sale of red meat across its stores countrywide.

The chemical is sold by chemists and agrovets at Sh650 per 500-gramme container. The investigation raised questions regarding quality and safety controls within the country’s food chain.