What you need to know:
- Public health officials are sounding the alarm against the consumption of the toxins, which have been found to damage liver cells and cause cancer.
- Mr Duba says the government cannot rely on the certificate of conformity from the country of origin to determine that goods are safe for consumption.
If in the past one month you have taken your favourite dawa you may have consumed toxic ginger, warn public health officers.
Dawa is a mixture of ginger, honey, lemon, hot water and garlic. The name is derived from the Kiswahili name for medicine.
According to laboratory analysis from the Government Chemist seen by the Sunday Nation, the 23,000 tonnes of ginger imported from Vietnam were rotten, dirty, moist and had moulds.
Mr Muhammed Duba, Secretary-General of the Association of Public Health Officers, said that from the laboratory results, the consignments had moulds "and we instructed that they should not be released into the market".
"We have since learnt that they were released, yet they had aflatoxins. We raised our concerns with the authorities about the ginger not being fit to be released to the market but they released it,” Mr Duba said.
The results reveal that the commodity had a foul smell and appearance, with a moisture content of 14 per cent, against a maximum limit of 12 per cent.
As a result, the public health officials are sounding the alarm against the consumption of the toxins, which have been found to damage liver cells and cause cancer.
The consignment imported into the country by business people under Fairoils EPZ Limited in Nairobi in container number EGSU50117342 was meant for extraction of oil. But it was released into the market.
The health officials say a circular from the national government restricting them from inspecting imported foodstuffs, cosmetics and disinfectants is to blame for the health risks Kenyans are being exposed to.
According to the circular dated June 2019, referenced OP/CAB/9/83A, the public officers are placed in Category 1, which only allows them to go to a ship and only give a declaration that it has arrived. They are not supposed to take samples at the port.
“As from June this year, we have been at the ports as spectators. Kenyans are at the mercy of the government that decides what to bring, whether good or bad. We are not allowed to take samples for laboratory tests, as our mandate had been redefined,” Mr Duba.
The circular directed that in the event that the public health officers take samples of any goods that come into the country, they must seek the authority of the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
“We are at the ports by law, just like them, and our roles are different. Why would we write letters seeking to take samples?” Mr Duba asked.
They said that public health officers, being the customary custodians of the Public Health Act Cap 242, owe it to Kenyans citizens to ensure food safety.
Prior to the release of the June circular, a public health officer’s primary mandate was to inspect and test foods as well as recommend them for destruction.
The association has since gone to court to petition for a review of the directive to regain their mandate.
"We have made our case that this nation is subjected to unsafe chemicals and food," Mr Duba said, adding that the withdrawal of their mandate at the ports points to vested interests out to do profiteer at the expense of the safety of Kenyans.
The questionable consignment of ginger arrived at the Mombasa port and was checked by public health officials on August 8.
The next day, samples were extracted and taken for testing at the Government Chemist and the results released on August 14.
A letter to Mombasa Island Cargo Terminal managers and Kilindini port public health officer J. Kombo recommended the detention of the consignment, as its contents had been condemned and recommended for destruction.
The letter was copied to the Kilindini Port Police, Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) operations manager and the Port public health officer.
“The said ginger had failed to comply with the standards and thereby condemned and recommended the same for destruction,” the letter said.
The Sunday Nation understands that Kebs ignored the directive and issued a certificate of conformity, which allowed the importer to move the commodity.
Mr Duba says the government cannot rely on the certificate of conformity from the country of origin to determine that goods are safe for consumption.
“Goods in transit can be contaminated and we cannot rely on their certificate. They will always say their goods are okay, but we must check as well,” he said.