New bill seeks to create a new office to coordinate food and feed safety management in the country.

Kenyan consumers face numerous food safety threats such as contaminated vegetables grown along sewer lines, fresh meat with toxic chemicals, and peanut butter and maize flour brands containing aflatoxin, a naturally occurring fungus that is harmful to humans and animals.

According to a 2014 study by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya is among the world’s hotspots for aflatoxins and has recorded two major illness outbreaks, including in 2004, which resulted in 100 deaths and more than 300 cases of poisoning. A perfect illustration of the African proverb, ‘If you give bad food to your stomach, it drums for you to dance’.

Along with often-dire health consequences, contaminated food has severe economic repercussions. A 2018 World Bank report revealed that unsafe food costs low- and middle-income economies US$110 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses each year.

While there is a felt need for strong food safety policy to address these challenges, current policies on food safety are incoherent and do not clearly define responsibilities for food safety oversight in the country. This has necessitated the need of a modern food control system with relevant and enforceable food laws and regulations.

Fragmented food control system

Regardless of Kenya having a myriad of regulators of food safety in Kenya, there have been lapses in enforcement. Moreover, the various food laws have not adequately addressed domestic food safety governance, which has had serious implications on public health protection and trade in food. Some of these laws and regulations include the Crops Act 2013, Dairy Industry Act, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service Act, 2012, Meat Control Act, Biosafety Act, Standards Act, Consumer Protection Act among others.

The fragmented food control system has 11 food safety control agencies, plus specific county governments charged with specific areas of control in the food industry operate independently to fulfill their constitutional mandates. These agencies include the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), Kenya Plant and Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), all working under the ministries responsible for trade, industrialization; health; livestock, fisheries and agriculture.

Take a look at the table below to familiarize yourself with the various food safety agencies in the country and their roles.


Food Safety Agency

Role in Food Safety

Enabling Legislation


Ministry of Health

Food Safety Control and Risk Management in foods from the market to areas of consumption, export and imports

Food Drugs and Chemical Substances Act Cap 254, 242, 356

Breast Milk Substitutes Act


Kenya Bureau of Standards

Standardization in Food Quality and safety, metrology, conformity assessment

The Standards Act Cap 496


The Directorate of Veterinary Services

Inspection and Certification of Foods of Animal Origin

Meat Control Act, 356, Animal Diseases Act 364, Fertilizers and

animal foodstuffs act CAP 345


The Kenya Fisheries


Ensuring the safety and quality of fish, fisheries products and fish feeds placed in the market


The Fisheries Management and

Development Act



Agriculture and Food


regulation of food Safety of foods of plant origin


Agriculture and

Food Authority Act

and the Crops Act


Kenya Plant Health

Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS)

Ensuring the safety of food of plant

origin in the Country,

imported or exported

KEPHIS Act; Plant

Protection Act 324


Pest Control Products Board

Regulation of the registration of pest control products on foods of plant origin and monitoring residues

Pest Control

Products Act 346


The Veterinary Medicines Directorate

Regulating safe use of

veterinary medicines

including pest control

products on animals

Veterinary Surgeons

and Veterinary

Paraprofessionals Act, Veterinary Medicines



Kenya Dairy Board

Regulating production and safety of dairy products

Dairy Industry Act CAP 336


County Governments

Implementing and Enforcing food safety control measures

Various Acts of Parliament and

County Legislations


National Biosafety Authority

Regulation of the safety of genetically modified foods

Biosafety Act No.2 of 2009


Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority

Regulating the use of nuclear energy and radioactive substances

Nuclear Regulatory Act, 2019


Any other food control

agency established by law

Regulate all the unregulated aspects along the food safety continuum

Several laws under

Development (the Livestock Bill,

Trade Bill)


For harmonization purposes, the National Food Safety Coordination Committee (FSCC), which is an ad hoc committee without any legal basis, was created to help coordinate the activities of the committee, with the views on its success remaining on of the most contentious issues in the country.

According to industry stakeholders, the various regulatory agencies adopt diverse measures governing food, with these differences undermining Kenya’s competitiveness in international food trade and exposing citizens to risks of unsafe food, which may also impede the free movement of food internally and externally.

The controller will ensure the total destruction of all condemned food products as most often find their way back to the markets and end up with the consumers.


Creation of the Food Safety Coordination and Oversight Office

The draft Food Safety policy 2021 and the Food and Feed Safety Coordination Bill currently has proposed the establishment of an office of the Food and Feed Safety Coordination. It has also urged for the setting up of the Oversight Office and County Food and Feeds safety control coordinating committees to oversee food safety at both the National and County government level.

According to the bill, the legislative role will fall on the government’s shoulders, who will review all relevant laws and regulations to be in tune with the changing food safety and food trade trends. It will also be responsible for preparing a Food Safety Act that will be responsive to national, regional and international obligations.

The Food Safety Coordination and Oversight Office will bring together ministries, actors and agencies to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate food and feed safety activities.

This office will be manned by a Food and Feed Safety Controller whose roles are clearly spelt out on the bill.

These roles include to protect and promote human health, facilitate the orderly development of the food and feed industries as well as fair practices in food trade. The officer will also be in charge of fulfilling the country’s international obligations, especially those that arise out of its membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). He/she will direct and oversee all the existing food control infrastructure and services and redefine their roles in order to eliminate areas of overlap and conflict. Further, the Controller will ensure the total destruction of all condemned food products as most often find their way back to the markets and end up with the consumers.

The Office of the Controller shall be managed by a Board comprising of a Chairperson appointed by the President, 5 Principal Secretaries from the various Ministries, a representative of the Council of Governors, two persons nominated by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance representing the Private Sector and appointed by the Cabinet Secretary and the Food and Feed Safety Controller who shall be an ex-officio member appointed by the Board.

To qualify for this position, the officer must hold a post graduate degree in human or veterinary medicine; public health, food science, animal science, food safety, agricultural sciences or fisheries sciences or Environmental Health sciences. He/she should have at least fifteen years’ experience relating to food safety, five years’ experience in a senior management position and meet the requirements of Chapter Six of the Constitution. The Controller shall hold office for a term of three years with eligibility for reappointment for a final three-year term.

County government to take charge of county food safety

At the county level, the County Governments will ensure the implementation of food safety laws and also establish the County Food Safety Coordination Committees. They will ensure that food business operators within their counties are registered and licensed, mainstream food safety control measures in their legislation and plans and prepare and publish county food safety reports. They will also be instrumental in capacity development of both the food producers and food-based organizations.

The County Food and Feed Safety Control Coordinating Committee shall be the platform for consultation and cooperation among subject matter specialists in the implementation of the Multi Annual National Control Plan and assist the chairperson in the preparation of the annual county food safety report.

The Chairperson of the Committee shall in consultation and cooperation with the Food Safety Controller, coordinate the Subject matter specialists involved in the implementation of the Multi Annual National Control Plan at the county level and receive and analyze reports by the specialists and provide feedback. He/she shall also prepare an annual county food safety report to be presented to the County Executive Committee Member, the National Competent Authorities and Subject matter specialists in the county.

So how does the government intend to ensure these regulations are implemented to the letter…?

Monitoring and evaluation framework

To guarantee effective implementation, the National Government together with the County Governments, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), private sector and other stakeholders, will develop monitoring and evaluation framework within six months of the policy implementation.

According to the bill, the monitoring and evaluation framework is expected to be consistent with the National Integrated Monitoring and Evaluation Systems (NIMES) and have clear terms of reference for relevant stakeholders in data collection and reporting at all levels. NIMES is a governance instrument under the Results Based Management system, designed to show transparency in the execution of policies and programs by government, civil society, private sector and development partners. To keep it up to date, the policy will undergo periodic review to address sector challenges and emerging issues.

For the Food and Feed Safety Control Coordination Bill, the competent authorities and subject matter specialists will jointly develop a Multi-Annual National Control Plan with yearly reviews as a basis and mechanism for the control of food and feed business operators in the country.

The Multi-Annual National Control Plan shall for each competent authority and subject matter specialist performing official control of food safety and describe a risk-based categorization of the necessary activities. It shall also describe the control systems applied in different food and feed sectors and cooperation among the competent authorities responsible for official controls in the sectors and outline a mechanism of continuously training personnel performing official controls.

In addition, it will describe a method of documenting procedures for official control and reporting and outline the organization and operation of contingency plans for foodborne or animal disease emergencies, feed and food contamination incidents and other health risks to humans, animals and the environment. For competent authorities, the Multi Annual National Control Plan  will  describe a procedure for cooperation with international competent authorities for mutual assistance.

To effectively implement its components of the Multi Annual National Control Plan, each Competent authority or subject matter specialist shall identify all stages where it is expected to act in its control of food or feed safety and identify Food or Feed Business Operators, by categorization, in the context of its mandate. They shall also monitor a consumer complaints register kept by food or feed business operators.

Oversight role of the controller

As stated by the draft bill, the Food and Feed Safety Controller shall then verify that each Competent Authority has put in place mechanisms for regulatory activity of enforcement to provide consumer protection and ensure that all food or feed during production, handling, storage, processing and distribution (farm to fork) are safe, wholesome and fit for human consumption and conform to food safety and quality requirements. He/she  will carry out inspections, sampling and analysis, examine records, issue regulatory permits and licenses, ensure staff health and hygiene and investigate compliance with the requirements of the relevant Acts, Regulations, and guidelines.

The Competent Authorities shall put in place measures to ensure that routine food controls performed at the level of Food or Feed Business Operators for imported, exported or re-exported foods/feeds are planned, managed and implemented in a way that ensures safety of the food or feed products placed on the market.

In the absence or inadequacy of such measures, the Food and Feed Safety Controller shall make recommendations for immediate action by the Competent Authority. Such measures shall be gazetted by the Cabinet Secretary after recommendation by the Controller subsequent to consultation with the County Governments, Competent Authorities and relevant stakeholders.

In regards to food control audits, the Controller may recognize any organization or agency for the purposes of conducting a food safety audit and for checking compliance with food safety management systems required under this Act. To ensure authenticity of food quality control labs, only designated laboratories shall do official analyses for food and feed safety control.

In the past poor coordination and enforcement of existing legislation and standards has prevailed, leading to poor implementation of food policy and legislation – an issue the new policy aims to counter, the bill notes.

For effective coordination purposes, a subject matter specialist shall share reports of implementation of its components of the Multi Annual National Control Plan with the subject matter specialists it works closely with and the head of the relevant Competent Authority who shall analyze the reports and provide feedback, as appropriate.

The Competent Authority shall then share its reports with the other Competent Authorities it closely works with and the Office of the Food and Feed Safety Controller. In turn, the Controller will analyze the reports and provide feedback, followed by an annual report on the State of Food and Feed Safety in Kenya which it will share with the Cabinet Secretary and the Competent Authorities.

Even as the policy strives to provide an official food safety control system both at the National and County levels, the responsibility of food safety still rests with all players along the food chain, notes the document.

This feature appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Food Safety Africa. You can read the magazine HERE