Kenya safe from ‘plastic rice’, assures PS Lesiyampe

"We have sufficient equipment here at the KEBS headquarters and I can comfortably tell Kenyans that we have no plastic rice," he said/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 20 – Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe has denied the existence of plastic rice in the Kenyan market following a viral video.

The PS says the ministry together with Kenya Bureau of Standards have conducted tests on the commodity sold in several stores and confirmed that the rice currently in the Kenyan market is safe for consumption.

“We have sufficient equipment here at the KEBS headquarters and I can comfortably tell Kenyans that we have no plastic rice,” he said.

The allegation of plastic rice follows a video circulating on social media showing a common process often conducted by manufacturers when recycling plastic material used instead to manufacture plastic pellets that resemble rice.

In the meantime, KEBS Managing Director Charles Ongwae assured that the facility had inspected all imports against the relevant standards at the source and found them to meet the requirements of the respective product standards.

The MD said they are yet to receive any information on the claims of the plastic rice, and asked consumers submit the samples of rice or any other product that they feel do not meet standards for testing to its laboratories in Nairobi, Kisumu or Mombasa or immediately call the toll-free line 0800221350.

The PS was speaking during the launch of food safety testing equipment at the Kenya Bureau of Standards funded by the European Union, where the new gadgets will help detect previously undetectable levels of harmful residues due to contaminants found in the kinds of food in the market.

Present during the launch was Industry and Trade Cabinet Secretary, Adan Mohamed, who said the programme also aims to support initiatives targeted at assuring safety and quality of locally produced and imported food products.

“Currently the world is facing major challenges related to aflatoxin, pesticides residues and heavy metals in foods among others that will need to be addressed in order to make our food industries more competitive,” said The CS.

“Hence the aim of the Standards and Market Access Program (SMAP) is to support initiatives targeted at assuring safety and quality of locally produced and imported food products. This will enhance the basket of quality export products from Kenya.”

Last year, Kenya exported goods, mostly agricultural produce worth Sh125 billion to European markets, a figure that the government is eyeing to increase going forward, thanks to the launch of SMAP.

“We realise that development of food standards and safety based on scientific principles will promote domestic, regional and international trade and to a larger extent boost Kenya’s credibility and attractiveness as a trade and investment destination,” stated Mohamed.

Ongwae added that the standards will guarantee that goods and services locally produced or traded with any country are safe, and fit for consumption whether locally or for export. Safety and compliance will also be enhanced for goods coming into the country.

The EU Ambassador Stefano Dejak said the EU supported SMAP to address concerns raised by the national food control institutions regarding the need for a system to minimise the risks and hazards related to agricultural produce from the farm to the fork.

“The equipment will contribute to increased production and consumption of safer and quality foods which will lead to increased competitiveness of Kenyan products, gain a better position in existing markets such as the 500 million strong EU market and also contribute to opening of new markets regionally and internationally.”

Ambassador Dejak emphasised that “SMAP is not only improving the value and safety of products across the value chain, but it is also improving livelihoods directly and indirectly for millions of people who depend on agriculture, by helping farmers to meet international food safety standards and be more competitive in the local and global market.”

On food safety, the CS noted that effective implementation and enforcement of adopted policies and regulations and efficient functioning of institutions along with testing standards will be key factors for the country in enhancing food safety.

Under the European Union SMAP programme, the implementing agencies KEBS, Kenya Plant health inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), and Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) received equipment worth Sh668 million.

MUTHONI WAWERU :Muthoni Waweru is a News Anchor/ Reporter and has been practicing Journalism since 2008. Environment and Human interest stories are her passion through which she hopes to make a difference.