, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 7 – The Kenya Red Cross Society now says it will not surrender batches of contaminated Unimix to Proctor & Allan until investigations are complete.
The society’s Secretary General Abbas Gullet told journalists that a probe had already been launched into the contaminated Unimix that has stirred public outcry, after revelations that up to 270,000 children are facing a health risk after being fed with the aflatoxin-laden relief food.
“This is evidence, it is not a matter of just returning it because there is an investigation that is going on and it may be required,” Gullet said. “Once it was found to be contaminated and investigations launched, it became government property, so let no one mislead you that the Red Cross has been reluctant to return it to the supplier.”
Proctor & Allan who supplied the food to the Kenyans 4 Kenya initiative had last week complained that Kenya Red Cross did not return the Unimix to them for destruction despite having pledged to do so.
The firm’s Managing Director Judy Macharia said that the company had undertaken to supply fresh Unimix to replace the tainted one, but their client had not returned the contaminated batches.
“We undertook to manufacture fresh Unimix to replace the recalled three batches in view of the fact that Kenyan maize in general has been affected by aflatoxin as already widely reported,” she said last week.
The MD said that they were informed of the contamination one month after the consignment had been collected by the Kenya Red Cross.
“Proctor & Allan embarked on immediate investigations into the matter and the indications were that it was isolated to three batches 236.011.1, 236.011.2 and 237.011.1,” she said adding that the food was contaminated at the distribution and handling stage.
But Gullet insists the food was contaminated at source. “Get me clear on this, there is no way the food could have been contaminated on the way. This food was contaminated right at the source before it was given to us and we are not responsible.”
“It is the responsibility of the supplier to ensure on issues of quality, but after purchasing it we carried random tests and found some to be contaminated and we alerted them. Go and ask them we are the ones who pointed it out to them!” he asserted.
Gullet has also dismissed reports by Public Health and Sanitation Minister Beth Mugo that the Kenya Red Cross has not been cooperative with the government on the matter.
“I have got a lot respect for the minister, and I can tell you we have been in touch with the government on many occasions and even their technocrats have been in touch with us on this issue; there is nothing we are hiding at all,” he said, further denying reports by a Member of Parliament that he might be linked to Sai Millers, another company embroiled in the scandal.
“This are issues you can check at the registrar of companies, I have no relationship at all with any of the companies that supplied Unimix to us, I am not a director of Sai Millers as claimed,” he said.
An audit report from Deloitte and Touche indicates that Proctor & Allan was paid Sh84.69 million to supply 798 metric tonnes of Unimix while Sai Millers got Sh27.18 million to supply 302 metric tonnes of the same product.
At least 362 metric tonnes of the Unimix was recalled by the Kenya Red Cross due to contamination.
Gullet says medical tests will soon be carried out on all the children in the affected regions where the food was distributed to ascertain if they are likely to suffer any complications resulting from aflatoxin effects.
The Kenya Red Cross Society chief told journalists the Kenyans4Kenya initiative was above board and described it as the “most transparent humanitarian exercise worldwide.”
“There has been no exercise that was transparent like the Kenyans4Kenya, not anywhere in the world. And I am talking from experience of more than 40 years in the humanitarian sector,” he said.
Gina Din Kariuki, Kenya Red Cross’ Goodwill Ambassador who flanked him at the press conference said the initiative would continue to phase II to cover other projects that are aimed at assisting Kenyans.
“The project has not ended, we are going on to the other phase,” she said.