Save Kenyans from woes, burden of low quality grains

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Save Kenyans from woes, burden of low quality grains


maize

Maize delivered to a National Cereal and Produce Board depot. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) recently banned maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania. The ban was since lifted with stringent measures for trade. This was as a response to high levels of aflatoxin that were way beyond the recommended 10 parts per billion (ppb) threshold.

While the conversation has been on so-called trade wars it should not be lost on us that the agency was rightfully doing its part to protect Kenyan consumers from eating ugali and animal-based products that have high levels of aflatoxins.

Industry players have rightfully pointed out that increased and faithful implementation of existing laws by law enforcement agencies is the surest and most efficient way of protecting consumers by ensuring only safe grains are processed.

This is the right step for our agencies.

Industry players have further suggested that Kenyan authorities can go a step further by working with their East African counterparts to form a regional multi-agency team.

Working with other countries to ensure a co-ordinated regulatory mechanism is put in place would greatly reduce the levels of contaminated maize being produced and subsequently crossing our borders and food chains.

Funding for such policies should be a priority for policymakers and bureaucrats in the East African Community (EAC) ahead of the budget-making process that is set to take place over the next few weeks.

To supplement a co-ordinated regional multi-agency, EAC member states should consider investing in cross-border testing facilities and training personnel.

This would greatly reduce the cross-border influx of contaminated maize.

In instances where imported maize is found to be contaminated there needs to be mechanisms to ensure that this grain does not find its way back to the local market.

One of the biggest concerns is that maize meant for disposal still finds its way back to the local market and food chain.

Disposal procedure

All maize collected for disposal must be documented by Government agencies. The procedure for disposal must be documented as well as the quantities to be disposed of by all relevant Government authorities.

Going forward, both the Government and the private sector should also work on plans on how contaminated maize can find alternative uses.

In the meantime, Government agencies should increase monitoring and surveillance to ensure that millers are accessing high quality, nutritious grain which in turn will be processed into healthy maize flour.

The financial burden as a result of diseases in Kenya is a major cause of concern for many families and the last thing that consumers need in these challenging times is getting exposed to diseases that were preventable if they had not eaten contaminated foods.

These are some of the proposals our policymakers should consider as they start preparing the national budgets.

Ms Fernandes is the Cereal Millers Association CEO.

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