The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has yet to release results of toxicity tests done on the popular Indomie noodle brand, with major supermarkets continuing to stock the product despite contamination warnings.
The Comesa Competition Commission (CCC) on May 1 issued a consumer alert, indicating that Indomie contained aflatoxin and pesticide residues in quantities that exceeded safe limits.
Prolonged consumption of aflatoxins can cause cancer.
Quickmart and Carrefour supermarkets continue to stock the chili, chicken and vegetable-flavoured products on their shelves, while Naivas withdrew the noodle packets after the warning.
Kebs had contested the toxicity concerns raised by CCC, arguing that the Indomie noodles sold in Kenya are manufactured locally under trademark franchise and that none had been imported from Egypt, where the alert originated. Kebs managing director Bernard Njiraini, however, told Citizen TV that some of the ingredients are imported.
He added that the standards agency would release the results of its sample tests.
“The testing for pesticides takes slightly longer than for aflatoxins. It takes about four hours to get one sample ready. We are testing for about 80 pesticides in one sample,” Kebs acting head of Testing Division Tom Oduor told Sunday Nation.
The Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) advised Kenyans to refrain from either consuming or purchasing the product until Kebs verifies its safety.
“We urge all responsible supermarkets and other retailers of Indomie to voluntarily get the product off the shelf for a couple of weeks as tests are conducted,” said Cofek secretary-general Stephen Mutoro in a statement.
Sunday Nation visited Quickmart Pioneer and Carrefour Junction in Nairobi and found the products still stocked on the shelves, despite the concerns raised, which may put Kenyan consumers at risk of consuming contaminated products.
Quickmart declined to respond to our queries on the matter.
Carrefour said it “maintains the strictest standards and controls” where customers’ health and safety are concerned.
“We adhere to international benchmark standards such as ISO, as well as conducting rigorous checks before items are placed on our shelves. We regularly request documentation to show compliance with food safety laws and have gone a step further to invest in our own testing facilities to check for harmful substances such as aflatoxin,” said Carrefour East Africa communication manager Kevin Macharia.
Naivas supermarkets, however, heeded the warning and no longer sells the products. “Our priority is to protect the customer. We have to take the first precaution to remove the product and get the justification for it to be on the shelf,” Naivas chief commercial officer Willy Kimani told Sunday Nation.
Other countries in the bloc heeded the CCC’s warnings and proceeded to take precautions as advised.
“The commission, through its market observatory, has established that some of the recalled Indomie products are imported and marketed in other member states of the common market.
“The commission would like to, therefore, alert the general public of the risks in consuming above Indomie instant noodles as established by the Food and Safety Authority and to exercise caution in the consumption of the same,” the CCC said.
Rwanda banned imports and distribution of the Kenyan-made chicken-flavoured Indomie brand as the relevant authorities investigate the matter.
The Food and Drug Authority in Ghana also issued a statement on Tuesday, assuring its citizens that Indomie packs with the label “Ladha ya Kuku” is not a registered product in the country.
Indomie is an instant noodle meal that quickly became a favourite in Kenyan households, especially children and among university students, as it is easy to prepare and easy on the pocket.
This is the latest food alert, coming a few weeks after Kinder Joy products got a clean bill of health from Kebs over salmonella outbreak concerns.