Punish traders using toxic chemicals in human food

Thursday November 30 2017

The story about the Ministry of Health warning over the illegal use of cancer-causing chemicals to hasten the ripening of fruits raises a pertinent issue that needs to be addressed urgently.

The public has come across similar reports in the mainstream and social media over misuse of poisonous chemicals in food.

It is common knowledge that, nowadays, some individuals are using antiretrovirals and antibiotics to make poultry grow faster.

The Nation carried a story about officials from the Kenya Bureau of Standards who raised their concern on the use of formalin in Maua, Meru County, to ensure fish do not rot quickly. Formalin is a chemical that is used to preserve bodies.


There are also unconfirmed stories of informal food vendors adding the painkiller Panadol while cooking githeri to make it ready more quickly.

The trend is said to be widespread in the country.

Doctors have raised the alarm over the misuse of chemicals.

They are worried that the practice could lead to the emergence of drug-resistant strains of diseases that are currently curable.

A study report published this year by the World Health Organisation shows that the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis (TB), for instance, has mutated to drug-resistant strains that are taking the lives of many people and they are fast spreading, even here in Kenya.

The use of calcium carbide, a deadly chemical, in ripening fruits such as mangoes and bananas should make all Kenyans very worried given the rise in cancer cases in the country.


Last week, health officers in Voi decried the rising occurrence of chemical residue in milk. This was due to misuse of chemicals or failure to follow instructions by veterinary officers in administering medicines on dairy cows.

There are claims that some people also use formalin to preserve milk.

Going to that extent in a bid to make money quickly is unethical. It is time law enforcers acted and ensured such rogue traders and farmers rot in jail.

The Agriculture ministry should also monitor the situation and bring to justice individuals who misuse pesticides and harm Kenyans.

Kenyans, too, should be each other’s keeper and learn to value life more than profit. Human life is sacred.

The government should act quickly, otherwise we will end up with an entirely sick nation. Time is running out.

KAIMA D. M. RUIGA, Nairobi.

* * *
On November 27, the Health ministry sent out a circular about the illegal use of calcium carbide to ripen fruits.

It warned farmers and fruit vendors on the vice and also urges consumers to be on the lookout.

While I commend the ministry for this action, I urge it to research on affordable tests that consumers can use to identify contaminated fruits.

They can then help in apprehending the culprits to face the law.

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