Kenya: #RedAlert - Why You Need to Keep Off Boiled Matumbo, Minced Beef

(file photo).

Boiled matumbo, minced meat and chicken liver are some of the most contaminated meats being sold in some Nairobi supermarkets.

According to certificates of analysis and examination exclusively seen by the Saturday Nation, Naivas supermarket is one of the outlets implicated. Two of the six contaminated samples were collected from two of the supermarket's outlets, including Gateway Mall in Syokimau.

Certificates obtained from the National Public Health Laboratory Food Safety and Nutrition Reference Laboratory results indicate that some outlets have been selling meat laced with a preservative that should not be detected in meat.

Following revelations that some meat sellers were harming buyers in their use of preservatives, the Health ministry analysed 40 samples of meat from random establishments.

The minced meat samples, for instance, were found to have sodium metabisulfite whose levels were 31 times higher than what is accepted by law.

"I am of the opinion that the sample (minced meat) contains sodium metabisulfite and does not comply with the Act," said Mr Joram Chelashaw, the public analyst who certified the samples.

WHITISH COMPOUND

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

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 even if the carcass could have stayed for up to a month.

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.

Although sources at the Health ministry strongly indicated the chemical was not allowed in any meat products, this preservative has for a long time been in use in butcheries and supermarkets despite its risks.

"Sodium metabisulphite should be at zero levels," said the source, who requested anonymity.

According to the certificates of analysis and examination, the minced meat collected from one of Naivas outlets had sodium metabisulfite as high as 15,604 mg/kg, when the acceptable level should be less than or equal to 500 mg/kg.

Further, Mr Chelashaw's report also indicated seals from some of the contaminated samples had been tampered with.

For instance, a minced beef sample taken from Naivas Gateway Mall was not only found to have seven times the acceptable levels of sodium metabisulfite, but its seal was also missing. "The seal on the sample of minced beef received by me on the June 16 was missing," Mr Chelashaw noted in his report.

The meat had 3,386 mg/kg of the chemical. Health officials on Thursday closed down six meat retailers after tests showed harmful amounts of preservatives.

SUSPENDED SALE

On Thursday, Naivas Supermarket suspended the sale of red meat across 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 Ltd, Tuskys Buruburu, Naivas Mavoko and Tuskys Kenyatta Avenue.

"The requirement is that the preservatives be used in limited amounts, but these shops exceeded the amounts. Those are some of the things that will affect people's lives," said Nairobi Health minister Mohammed Dagane.

Nairobi County's deputy director of 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 the meat or not.

Head of Public Health Kepha Ombacho yesterday said the ministry had supervised the closure of the six outlets.

"We have directed counties to conduct regular investigations on all food items. Anyone found to have adulterated any food item will be prosecuted," said Dr Ombacho.

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