KEBS probes Spanish olive oil safety following withdrawal from foreign markets

KENYA – The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) is looking into the safety of a popular brand of Spanish olive oil after the product was withdrawn from supermarket shelves in some markets, including the United Arabs Emirates (UAE), for allegedly containing cancer-causing chemicals.

Olive oil has become popular in diets in the world propped by its numerous health benefits, including cutting the risk of heart attacks. It is an oil high in an ingredient known as monounsaturates (MUFA) required to regulate cholesterol levels, and vitamin E, which helps to stave off heart disease.

The popularity of olive oil has, however, become problematic globally due to unscrupulous traders who have taken advantage of the fad to sell cheap and unsafe versions.

In July, Spanish authorities banned exports of pomace olive oil amid claims that some consignments contained high levels of potentially cancer-causing chemicals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), in oil extracted from pulpy residue.

Pomace oil is extracted from olive pulp left over from the production of higher quality oils using chemical solvents.

The grade four olive oil was found to be contaminated with the chemical alpha benzopyrenes, which is carcinogenic. An export ban on other grades of the product has since been lifted by Spanish authorities.

In an e-mailed response, Benard Njiraini, KEBS Managing Director informed Business Daily that samples of the Spanish olive oil in the Kenyan market would be tested for safety before a decision is taken.

Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek), a movement committed to consumer protection and education, has urged the regulatory body to verify the safety of Spanish olive oil in the Kenyan market.

Mr. Njiraini said the bureau would contact its Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PVOC) agents to ascertain the results of the certificate of analysis of the products on sale in the Kenyan market.

He stated that KEBS’ mandate is to protect safety and health of consumers and as such they receive information products information from various sectors, including consumers, press, manufacturers and other stakeholders, including Cofek.

“Our procedures include in-depth investigations before reacting to any allegations, which entail collection of random samples and subjecting them to Lab analysis. If the products are imported and had been issued with a certificate of conformity, we contact the inspection agency to ascertain the results of certificate of analysis of that product.”

Benard Njiraini, Managing Director, KEBS Tweet

In 2017, Reuters reported that the Italian police had busted a crime ring exporting fake extra virgin olive oil to the United States — highlighting the Mafia’s infiltration into Italy’s famed agriculture and food business.

The gang reportedly shipped cheap olive pomace oil to the US where it was re-labelled the more expensive “extra virgin” variety and distributed as such to retail stores in New Jersey.

Such shipments often contain harmful ingredients or misrepresented quality, triggering calls for the recall of products from the market.

The push for KEBS to probe the safety of olive oil on supermarket shelves comes shortly after it directed the millers of a number of maize and porridge flour brands to recall them for not meeting the required safety standards.

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