KENYA – The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has acquired new equipment, which can detect a wide range of disease-causing residues in food, including some linked to cancer.

The standards body on Tuesday said the new testing kit has ability to analyse multiple toxic compounds including arsenic, mercury, harmful food additives and varied disease causing micro-organisms in farmed products like rice.

Rice reportedly contains inorganic arsenic known to cause cancer, heart diseases and affects development.

“The equipment will be used for testing residues and harmful organisms such as pesticide and veterinary drug residues in foods, toxic elements like lead, arsenic and mercury,” said Industry, Trade and Industrialisation secretary Adan Mohamed during unveiling of the equipment yesterday.

Arsenic exists in soil and only a small amount gets into food and it mainly affects rice because it is grown in a flooded area as this makes it more likely to be absorbed.

The new laboratory equipment will also improve accuracy and cut down the amount of time used to carry them out tests significantly.

For instance, kebs lab have new equipment that has the ability to carry out test of 210 compounds simultaneously from a single sample in 45 minutes an upgrade from the previous apparatus that were only able to investigate the presence of 23 elements from a samples in an hour.

Kebs laboratories were upgraded alongside those at the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) under the Standards and Market Access Programme (SMAP) at a cost of Sh680 million.

Mr Mohamed said the equipment will also be used to detect disease-causing micro-organisms, pathogenic micro-organisms, food additives and mycotoxins.

“More needs to be done to ensure that preventable food safety issues do not result in any more loss of life or the outbreak of serious health complications. Challenging as this may be, it is not impossible.

Effective implementation and enforcement of adopted policies and regulations and efficient functioning of institutions along with testing standards will be key factors for the country in enhancing food safety,” said Mr Mohamed.

The Smap program is a €12.1 million (Sh1.8 billion) project whose implementation began in 2014 and has also helped Kenya develop 80 food safety standards and regulations touching on various areas including on farm and animal products.

June 21, 2017: Business Daily