Over the last couple of weeks, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) has clamped down on several supermarkets in the city selling rotten meats and other foodstuffs to their unsuspecting customers.
Besides big supermarkets such as the Shoprite branch in Naalya and the Tuskys in Bwaise, KCCA health inspectors also raided smaller supermarkets and even food vendors in several parts of Kampala. The findings are depressing but not surprising. In many of the raided supermarkets, refrigerators storing food were found to be in an appalling state.
One of the major supermarkets reportedly uses a toxic chemical to preserve fresh meat, posing a health hazard to consumers. Others were selling expired foodstuffs.
While the findings from the bigger supermarkets might have come as a surprise, the KCCA operation downtown Kampala was much more predictable. Here, several shops were closed after they were found to be working in unhygienic conditions.
Unfortunately many people's businesses have been disrupted by this operation, but this is necessary to keep consumers safe. Even cheap food and drinks must be prepared and served in a clean environment; or else, they will be a source of diseases.
For a long time the Ugandan consumer has been left largely unprotected from such harmful products and practices because no authority appeared to take responsibility for their safety.
The Uganda National Bureau of Standards, which many people expect to do this, is grossly underfunded and thus doesn't seem to have the capacity to do the job. In many cities across the world, the health department is a very important regulatory office charged which protecting people from potentially-harmful businesses and activities. T
his department ordinarily approves the location of and physical plans for mostly food and beverage-related businesses. However, in Uganda businesspeople are free to set up anywhere, anyhow as it has never been clear to whom this function belongs, leaving consumers to their own devices.
The city authority's health department should maintain this momentum so that the consumer is protected from potentially-harmful products.