Health officials in Nairobi County closed down six meat retailers after tests showed harmful amounts of preservatives in their stock.
This came as Naivas Supermarket on Thursday suspended the sale of red meat across all its stores countrywide hours after Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua ordered the closure of its butchery sections in the county.
City health officials said the tests done at the national laboratories prompted the closure of the meat shops, among them Muthaiga Fine Meats Limited, Tuskys Buruburu, Naivas Mavoko and Tuskys Kenyatta Avenue.
"The requirement is that the preservatives be used in limited amounts but these shops went ahead and exceeded the amounts. Those are some of the things that will affect people's lives," said Nairobi Health CEC Mohammed Dagane.
Nairobi County's deputy director, public health, Mr Kenneth Maina, said sodium bisulfite is a permissible food preservative but the limit must not be exceeded and must be indicated on the packaging for the customer to decide whether to buy meat with preservatives or without.
Dr Mutua's directive came after tests on meat sold at Naivas Supermarket, Gateway Mall outlet, in Mavoko showed it had 3,286mg of sodium metabisulfite per kilogramme.
Naivas chief commercial officer Willy Kimani said the retailer had considered the interest of its customers and would subject its whole stock of red meat to thorough tests.
"We will only be selling white meat for now in all our butcheries," said Mr Kimani in a statement, adding that Naivas is cooperating with national and county government agencies to address this issue.
Dr Mutua's directive came after an investigation into meat sold at the supermarket's Gateway Mall in Mavoko, with the county boss saying samples tested had 3,286 milligrammes of sodium metabisulfite per kilo.
"The butchery sections will remain closed until given an okay to open by my Government's public health department," the county boss said in a statement.
Hours after Dr Mutua's directive, the Ministry of Health and the Nairobi County Public Health Department announced that 15 per cent of meat samples analyzed from the capital have been confirmed to contain the chemical, adding that all raw meat from the affected outlets had been seized.
In a statement signed by Health Secretary Sicily K. Kariuki, the government said the unnamed outlets have also been closed and the meat products destroyed.
Additionally, the governments say the affected outlets will be prosecuted, hinting at looming legal action against the offending retailers.
"The Ministry of Health... has directed all county public health departments to undertake heightened surveillance in all supermarkets, butcheries, meat processors and other food business operators to ascertain any presence of additives not permitted for use in meat and meat products, "Ms Kariuki had said on Monday.
Thursday's decisions follows an expose by NTV over the continued use of Sodium metabisulfite by supermarkets to preserve meat products. Kenyans have reacted with shock and anger to the story that aired on Sunaday evening, with calls for action by regulatory over the vice being made across the popular online platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
The ministry of health has equally clarified that Sodium metabisulfite was not permitted for use in meat and meat products, including poultry and meat products.
"Our attention has been drawn to the NTV investigative report on how supermarkets and butcheries use chemicals to preserve meat. The ministry wishes to state that sodium metabisulfite, usually called sulfites, a food additive permitted for use in specified food categories," said the statement signed by acting Director General for Health Dr Wekesa Masasabi on Monday.
Dr Masasabi said the ministry had collected samples for testing from various outlets for analysis at the National Public Health laboratories.
He also said he had directed all the county public health departments to step up surveillance of all supermarkets, butcheries, meat processors and other food business operators to find out whether they are using illegal additives in their products.
"The ministry of health has collected random samples from various outlets for analysis at the National Public Health laboratories and directed all the county public health departments to step up surveillance in all supermarkets, butcheries, meat processors and other food operators to ascertain any presence of additives not permitted for use in meat and meat products," said Dr Masasabi.
Dr Masasabi promised the ministry would results as soon as the results of the lab tests were ready.
"The results of the analysis will be shared with the public immediately they are out," said the medic.
He further directed public health departments in counties to scale up and prioritize implementation of a wide ranging set of "public health measures aimed at safeguarding the public health safety of the population".
Nairobi county health officials closed down six meat retailers which tested positive for adding harmful amounts of preservatives to their meat.
The officials said the tests done at the national laboratories prompted the closure of the meat shops amongst them Muthaiga fine meats limited, Tuskys Buruburu, Naivas Mavoko and Tuskys Kenyatta Avenue.
"The requirement is that the preservatives be used in limited amounts but these shops went ahead and exceeded the amounts. Those are some of the things that will affect people's lives," said Nairobi health CEC Mohammed Dagane.
The tests were prompted by a shocking investigative report aired on NTV on Sunday that revealed the extent at which unscrupulous businessmen are going to make profits at the expense of their customers' health.
The official said that meat obtained from 40 outlets on Tuesday has been undergoing tests at the laboratory and the raids shall continue as the results trickle in.
"We got the results of six today which had turned positive and decided to close down their meat shops and seize the stocked meat so that it is not resold," he said.
Nairobi county's deputy director public health officer Mr Kenneth Maina said the preservative, sodium bisulphate, is a permissible food preservative but the limit must not exceed the set limits and must be labelled on the packaging for the customer to decide whether to buy the one with preservative or the one without.
"When this product is in excess, it can cause cancer, breathing problems and even shock which finally leads to death in cases where it is consumed in excess," said Mr Maina.
The officials said the surveillance shall continue to protect Kenyans from harmful preservatives.