KENYA – Naivas Supermarkets has suspended the sale of red meat across all its stores countrywide to allow for the results of independent testing of its meat and assessment of its supplier base.

This follows a laboratory test on a sample of meat sold at one of its branches at Gateway Mall in Machakos County that revealed the presence of an ‘unpermitted additive’ as a preservative.

The retail chain, in a statement, stated that the whole stock of red meat will be subjected to a thorough independent lab test and a step-by-step verification of each participant along the whole meat value chain.

An exposé on the quality of meat offered on the shelves of several retail outlets in the country’s capital revealed that some retailers have been using sodium metabisuplite in high dosage despite the ministry of health imposing a ban on the use of the additive on meat and meat products.

According to an analysis performed by the government’s analyst on the meat samples, the results ascertained the presence of the preservative with levels ranging from a low of 44.5mg per kilogram of meat to high of 63.326 grams per kg of meat.

The development has caused an uproar from consumers and stakeholders in the food industry who have called for interventions aimed at containing the situation.

The Kenya Veterinary Association (KVA) had faulted the lack of clear guidelines and control as a likely cause of the use of chemical preservatives on unprocessed meat by outlets especially in such levels that exceed the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL).

As part of its intervention, KVA called for the government to outlaw any use of the chemical preservatives in all the meat outlets that are not involved in processing and packaging while at the same time ensuring clear labelling of batches containing the additive.

The government through the Ministry of Health has since then issued a statement noting that hat the use of Sodium Metabisulfite is “not permitted in meat and meat products, including poultry and game meat”.

The Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Sicily Kariuki, directed all county public health departments to heighten surveillance in all supermarkets, butcheries, meat processors and other food business operators.

She also asked counties to scale up and prioritise implementation of public health measures that will help keep the people safe, alongside enforcement of existing laws.