KENYA – The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has reversed its statement that previously declared certain batches of imported cooking oil valued at Sh16.5 billion (U.S$ 107.5 million) ‘unfit’ deeming it harmless for human consumption.
In a statement, KEBS clarified that the oil met health and safety parameters, except for the vitamin fortification component, emphasizing that this deficiency did not pose a health and safety risk.
“From the tests done, the edible oil complied with all the health and safety parameters of the applicable by Kenya Standard (KS EAS 769: 2019). However, the sampled edible oils did not meet the Vitamin A levels specified in the Kenyan Standard. This is not a health and safety parameter,” KEBS said.
The edible oil had been imported by the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) for its edible oil dispensing machines, targeting low-income earners and disadvantaged groups.
The initiative aimed to provide affordable cooking oil through vending machines, aligning with the government’s plan to address the needs of economically vulnerable citizens.
However, in a letter dated September 5, KEBS had informed KNTC that the consignment failed to meet quality assurance standards, prompting the rejection of the shipment.
“The consignments number 23MBAIM402473344, 23MBAIM403321628, and 23MBAIM403235943 have been rejected, and KNTC is hereby advised to reship them back to the country of origin within 30 days from the date of this letter, failure to which they shall be destroyed,” the letter read in part.
The initial findings reported exceeded fat content by 0.47%, while moisture and volatile matter, acid value, and peroxide oxygen content deviated from the required standards.
Acid value, a crucial parameter for oil quality, showed a potassium hydroxide measurement of 0.12, significantly lower than the required 0.6. Surprisingly, the peroxide oxygen content, which should not exceed 10, stood at 5.42.
The unsettling findings prompt action from KEBS, directing the importer to reship the rejected consignments to the country of origin within 30 days, warning that failure to comply would result in destruction at the importer’s cost.
Controversy surrounding the condemned oil deepened when on December 1, Senators claimed that a significant portion of the imported oil went missing from warehouses in Nairobi’s Industrial Area.
The Senate Committee on Trade, Industrialisation, and Tourism discovered discrepancies between records and the physical inventory, raising questions about the handling and distribution of the oil.
The Kenya Kwanza administration had endorsed the importation of the oil in October 2022, designating KNTC as a key player in stabilizing prices for essential household food items. The Cabinet’s decision aimed to address the high cost of living and stabilize the prices of essential commodities, including edible oil.
The unexpected reversal by KEBS adds another layer to the unfolding saga, raising concerns about transparency and accountability in the handling of essential food items.