Feel concerned about safety of your food? Consumers fault counties for inaction

Only three in ten consumers have confidence in the safety of food products sold across different markets in Nairobi and Kajiado counties.

Perceptions about sanitation in markets and hygiene standards employed during food transportation and preparation are some of the key issues of concern for consumers.

In the Food Safety in Kenya, a consumer perspective survey, Nairobi scored the least at 30 per cent, Kajiado 32 per cent and Kirinyaga 44 per cent respectively in the level of confidence in food markets.

The study by Consumer Grassroots Association (CGA), shows consumers are raising concern that the county governments are not doing enough to guarantee food safety.

A significant portion of fresh produce targeting consumers in Nairobi is produced in Kirinyaga and Kajiado regions.

The survey got views from 9,592 consumers which comprised 54 per cent male and 46 per cent female aged 18 to 50 majority being 18 to 35.

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About 67 per cent of the respondents felt that their sources of food such as major and local supermarkets, open-air markets, direct from farmers and mama mbogas did not guarantee food safety.

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

However, majority of consumers who bought from mama mboga, direct from farmers and open-air markets had no confidence in the safety of food consumed.

“We 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 in Nairobi.

According to the survey, 55 per cent of the respondents were very worried, while 12 per cent were not worried about the safety of their food.

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

Respondents from Kirinyaga County expressed the highest level of confidence at 41 per cent followed by Kajiado at 33 per cent and Nairobi at 28 per cent.

The methods consumers use to ensure food safety were similar in all three counties including washing food thoroughly before cooking, ensuring food is properly cooked and buying from trusted suppliers.

“It’s important to note that these practices are useful in reducing contamination. However, food safety should be assured from production as in some instances washing and cooking does not eliminate chemical contamination,” explained Ms Angela Atieno, Food Safety Project Officer, CGA.

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.

An estimated 89 per cent of respondents felt the counties are not doing enough to ensure food safety. Interestingly, only 9 per cent of respondents were aware of existing or proposed food safety policies and laws.

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

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

The survey also showed that consumers receive information on pesticide use/misuse as well as other food safety issues through multiple channels.

The leading sources of information by percentage of respondents include non-governmental organizations 37 per cent, social networks 30 per cent, agrovet operators 15 per cent, county governments 11 per cent, the national government 7 per cent.

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

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