Kenya to strengthen food safety in wake of cholera outbreak

NAIROBI, May 28 (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government has partnered with industry to strengthen food safety in the wake of a cholera outbreak that has claimed 67 lives in the county.

Senior officials said Thursday that law enforcement and public education have been intensified countrywide to shield Kenyan from eating contaminated food.

"Inefficiencies in the national food safety control system have resulted to recurrence of diarrhea diseases in the country. We have established rigorous measures to correct this phenomenon," said the Chief Public Health Officer in the ministry of health, Kepha Ombacho.

He spoke in Nairobi during an African food safety summit attended by policymakers, regulators, industry and consumer lobby groups.

Kenya has recorded 67 deaths from a cholera epidemic that has spread in more than 20 counties since the start of the year.

Ombacho said the government has issued a directive to all county governments to implement far-reaching measures to contain the spread of cholera.

"Besides a ban on food hawking, we have instructed public health officers to inspect hotels, restaurants and shops to ensure they meet hygiene standards," Ombacho told reporters

An inter-ministerial taskforce has been formed to coordinate the enforcement of food safety standards in Kenya following the cholera outbreak.

Ombacho said recent analysis by the taskforce indicated the cholera outbreak has stabilized thanks to a ban on food hawking.

"We are providing technical expertise to county governments to enable them enforce public health regulations. Premises that sell food are being inspected on a regular basis," he said.

Ombacho added that state agencies have intensified surveillance to ensure food sold to consumers is free from pathogens and chemical residue.

Kenya has invested in state-of-the-art laboratories to test food samples before they are released to the domestic and international market.

Immaculate Odwori, Quality and Assurance Manager at Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), said safety is a prerequisite to enhance competitiveness of Kenyan agricultural produce in the global market.

"Enforcement of food safety guidelines will protect consumers from hazards and promote cross border trade in agricultural commodities," said Odwori.