KENYA – The Kenyan government has issued a series of directives aimed at tightening regulations and ensuring food safety standards among millers across the country after it emerged that aflatoxin compliance levels in the market have dropped.

Recent data from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) revealed a stark decline in aflatoxin compliance levels among millers, with figures showing a drop from 91.8 per cent in October 2021 to a concerning 62.2 per cent in May 2024.

Recently, the Ministry of Health issued a warning regarding Sherehe GSM maize flour, a local brand, due to elevated levels of aflatoxin.

This alarming trend has prompted government action to address the root causes of the decline and prevent further deterioration of food safety standards.

Among the directives issued by the government is the requirement for millers to submit hazard control plans approved by their top management.

Additionally, millers will be mandated to implement internal monitoring of aflatoxin and moisture content, with records available for verification by Kebs upon request.

Quarterly analysis reports of production must also be submitted to the standards regulator, alongside ensuring the employment of competent personnel to oversee quality control measures.

One of the key concerns highlighted by Kebs Director of Quality Assurance and Inspection, Geoffrey Muriira, is the need for stricter enforcement measures.

Dr Muriira emphasized the importance of holding millers accountable for ensuring the safety of the grain they source, particularly in light of previous instances where contaminated imports led to bans on maize imports.

The impact of external factors such as droughts between 2020 and 2022 was also cited as contributing to the decline in compliance levels, as the country resorted to importing grains.

However, stakeholders assert that responsibility for maintaining food safety standards extends beyond millers to include farmers, transporters, and aggregators.

United Grain Millers Chair, Ken Nyagah, stressed the need for a collaborative approach in addressing the challenges faced by the industry, calling for a wider net of accountability that encompasses all players in the value chain.

Nyagah highlighted the difficulty in sourcing uncontaminated maize, particularly from regions outside of Uasin Gishu.

He said the authority is working with county inspectors through capacity building so that they can enforce these laws in their locality.

When it comes to aflatoxin, quite a number do not comply –not only the imported but also locally grown,” he said.

In response to the government’s directives, stakeholders have underscored the importance of awareness and capacity-building initiatives to ensure compliance with food safety standards.

Efforts are also underway to explore innovative solutions, such as the development of decontamination machines, to mitigate the impact of aflatoxin contamination on the grain supply.

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