KENYA – Consumers in Kenya are grappling with issues on the level of food safety awareness as well as perceptions about sanitation in markets and hygiene standards during food transportation and preparation.

This is according to a survey by the Consumer Grassroots Association (CGA), an independent body that works towards a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all Kenyan grassroots consumers which got views from 9,592 consumers.

“As a national consumer protection organization, CGA carried out the perception survey to contribute to the local body of knowledge on food safety, a global concern that is increasingly gaining prominence in Kenya,” said Ms. Alice Kemunto, Executive Director, CGA, during the launch of the survey dubbed, Food Safety in Kenya, a consumer perspective.

The data illustrates that nearly 7 in 10 respondents (67 percent) consider their sources of food in the markets to be of a lower than acceptable hygiene standard.

A substantial portion of horticultural produce targeting consumers in Nairobi is produced in Kirinyaga and Kajiado.

Nairobi scored the least at 30%, Kajiado 32% and Kirinyaga 44% respectively in level of confidence in food markets.

Fascinatingly, respondents who bought from major supermarkets had the highest level of confidence in the safety of food trailed by those who bought from local supermarkets.

Majority of those who bought from mama mboga, direct from farmers and open-air markets had no confidence in the safety of food.

Production & transportation

Further, 66% of respondents felt food safety is not guaranteed in production and transportation.

Respondents from Kirinyaga county expressed the highest level of confidence at 41% followed by Kajiado at 33% and Nairobi at 28%.

To protect themselves, residents of the three counties bank on on washing food before cooking, proper cooking and procurement from trusted suppliers.

In as much as these practices reduce contamination, they cannot eliminate chemical contamination hence food safety should be ascertained from production.

County government

Perceptions of county management of food safety within the three counties was also sought recognizing that food production and marketing issues are largely a devolved county government function.

89% of respondents felt the counties are not doing enough to ensure food safety.

Interestingly, only 9% of respondents were aware of existing or proposed food safety policies and laws.

Pesticide use

The survey also sought to find out the level of awareness amongst consumers on one of the most pressing food safety issues i.e., pesticide use.

The survey outcome disclosed that most consumers are not aware of the issues with only 36% having received information on human, food safety issues coming out of pesticide use in the past year.

The trend appeared to be the same across the three counties with Kirinyaga leading in awareness. Nairobi had the lowest level of awareness.

Key interventions proposed in the study include public education and awareness creation, implementation, enforcement and regular monitoring of laws and policies regarding food safety as well as development of reporting mechanisms.

With the recent launch of KS 1758 quality mark for fresh produce, it is anticipated that consumer confidence in produce safety will be heightened.