Plot twist as Germany exonerates Kenyan coffee previously flagged in Japan

KENYA – A new twist has emerged after tests conducted in Germany on a Kenyan batch of coffee that had recently raised eyebrows in Japan over excess chemical residues, turned out to be negative.

Theophilus Mutui, the Managing Director, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), said Kenya had also analyzed the samples and gotten negative results, bringing to question the method that was used by Japan.

According to the Germany results, the level of Chlorpyrifos was below 0.05 percent, which is the minimum threshold that is permitted, Mutui said.

“Two other tests in Kenya and Germany turned negative and we are now wondering why the authorities in Tokyo flagged it,” he said.

The government of Japan had in the previous week raised the frequency of monitoring tests of Chlorpyrifos in Fresh Coffee Beans from Kenya to 30% levels of official controls due to detection of levels above the threshold.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that they detected Chlorpyrifos levels at 0.06 ppm which is above the maximum residue limits of 0.05 ppm required for imported coffee in Japan.

According to the Pesticide Action Network – International (pan), Chlorpyrifos is officially classified as a Highly Hazardous Pesticide and is banned in the European Union due to its neuro and developmental toxicity.

It also harms reproductive systems and studies have shown that pregnant women and children are at higher risk if they are exposed. This pesticide is also highly toxic to bees and fish, as reported by Route to Food.

Farmers mostly use Chlorpyrifos to control foliage and soil-borne insect pests.

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan notified all growers as well as exporters of fresh coffee beans to exercise voluntary tests at warehouses and at packaging of the product.

The issue of high levels of pesticides has been a key concern for exporters as it risks a permanent ban on Kenya’s produce.

Kenyan coffee is one of the most sought-after coffees in the world due to its intense flavor, full body and a pleasant aroma.

Japan is Kenya’s sixth largest importer of coffee having earned the country Sh1.5 billion in foreign exchange last year, as reported by Business Daily.

In 2020, South Korea and Japan banned its importation for 3 years citing high levels of chemical contamination.

Nation Kenya reported that the chemical levels of Ochratoxin, a naturally occurring foodborne mycotoxin occurring in a wide variety of agricultural commodities, was found to have exceeded the allowable minimum.

Chlorpyrifos ban in U.S

This year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of Chlorpyrifos on food crops, reversing one of the Trump administration’s most fraught public health decisions.

The EPA was prompted to act by a scathing federal court decision in April last year that blasted the Trump administration’s decision to keep the chemical on the market. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled the agency must ban the spraying of chlorpyrifos on food crops unless its staff could show it can be used safely.

Its decision marked the culmination of a decade-and-a-half fight, which began when environmental groups petitioned the agency in 2007 to revoke all uses of the pesticide on food.

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