How Kenya’s food safety profile is worsening, and why it’s time to act

by Amref Health Africa

A recent study by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) revealing the contamination of raw pork and poultry meat in supermarkets is a cause for concern.

The research conducted by experts from the World Animal Protection, Center for Microbiology Research and Kemri indicates that consuming the meat poses a potential risk of bacterial contamination and the spread of foodborne illnesses.

The study highlights the increase of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) pathogens, a public health concern gaining nationwide attention.

The development of antibiotic resistance to broad-spectrum medications provides limited alternatives, making it difficult to treat bacterial infections that do not respond to readily available drugs.

These findings highlight the need for urgent action to improve food safety. Like many low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), Kenya is experiencing a rapid epidemiological and demographic transition characterised by a double burden of infectious and non-infectious diseases. This transition results in a rapid increase in the burden of non-communicable diseases, likely linked to unsafe food.

Kenya’s food supply chain system involves many stakeholders, including farmers, processors, importers, wholesalers, retailers, consumers, service providers subcontracted by these operators, and policymakers and regulatory bodies. However, there are several challenges facing the food system safety in Kenya. These include a lack of strong coordination and oversight mechanisms of the various institutions and legislation, poor harmonisation of standards and regulations, inadequate protection of consumers, inadequate laboratory and surveillance systems, and lack of consumer awareness and capacity-building initiatives.

It is essential to measure the level of contamination in commonly consumed foods in the country, compared with internationally approved standards such as those provided by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Evidence of unsafe levels will require collaborative intersectoral remedial action to protect the public from the adverse health and economic effects of food poisoning.

By Martin Muchangi, Programme Director, WASH and NTDs, Amref Health Africa in Kenya

Article first published on

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