New fresh produce regulations to ensure food safety in local markets

By Victor Adar

Consumers will soon be able to buy vegetables and fruits bearing a quality mark from the supermarkets and other retail stores after the unveiling of the KS1758 Code of Practice. 

The adoption of the KS 1758 mark of quality is part of a campaign to ensure fresh produce industry players have a quality reference when handling fresh produce, as the government looks to standardize food safety and quality, and facilitate sustainable market access through the retail outlets. 

The process will start with the formal sector, such as supermarkets and e-commerce vendors, with the first certification projected to be out in October. It will then be expanded to include the informal sector markets such as Nairobi’s Wakulima and Mombasa’s Kongowea. Those who disregard the regulations will face a jail term ranging from six months to one year, a fine of between Sh50,000 and Sh1 million, or both. 

Speaking during the launch of the quality mark, the acting director of Agriculture and Food Authority Kello Harsama said the regulation also covers both export and local market products. 

“There are cases where vegetables are rejected at the airport only to find their way into the local markets. We are going to crack down on retail stores and individuals who flaunt these regulations,” said Harsama.

Retail Trade Association of Kenya CEO, Wambui Mbarire noted that despite huge revenues generated by horticulture value chain, there exist challenges in ensuring quality of food traded in formal and informal domestic meets requisite standards. 

“The full implementation of KS 1758 Horticulture Industry- Code of practice – Part 2 which takes care of fruits and vegetables would institute a system that incorporates good agricultural practices, hygiene, environmental and social considerations in which food getting into our domestic markets would go through, to enhance food safety,” said Mbarire.

95% of horticultural products sold in the domestic market account for more than Sh300bn to a sector that employs 6.1 million people. The bulk of produce for the domestic market comprises vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices, medicinal and aromatic plants. 

The initiative is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, which has prioritized better nutrition and the adoption of protective diets as an investment towards warding off future pandemics and other health crises.

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