New Quality Mark to Ensure Food Safety In Local Markets

Kenyans will soon be able to purchase quality-marked veggies and fruits at supermarkets and other retail outlets.

This comes after the introduction of a quality mark for the KS1758 Code of Practice, which aims to improve compliance with fresh product quality and safety laws.

The quality mark is part of a push to ensure that all industry players follow established processes for handling fresh food responsibly at all points along the value chain.

Consumers will be allowed to choose retail establishments that have met quality criteria for their purchases by the end of the year, according to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.

Despite the fact that exports accounted for only 4% of total horticultural produce in the country, Munya pointed out that 96 percent of food for the domestic market lacks quality inspections to ensure it is safe to eat. Director General Kellow Harsama of the Agriculture Food Authority (AFA) presented his remarks.

With help from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Directorate of Horticulture, the Retail Traders Association of Kenya (RETRAK), and the Standards Implementation Committee (SIC) produced a quality mark for the KS1758 Code of Practice.

Despite the significant revenues created by the horticultural value chain, RETRAK CEO Wambui Mbarire remarked that there were still issues in assuring the highest quality of food traded in formal and informal domestic marketplaces.

“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.” Wambui Mbarire. 

The adoption of KS 1758 is expected to improve food safety and quality, as well as facilitate long-term market access through retail outlets.

Millions of Kenyans rely on the horticulture value chain for a living; exports account for over Kshs 100 billion, while 95 percent of produce sold in the local market generates more than Kshs 300 billion in revenue.

Vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, as well as medicinal and aromatic plants, make up the majority of produce for the domestic market.

The provisions of the National Food Safety Policy of 2013, which proposes a broad range of policy actions to promote food safety in the country, are at the heart of this process. These include the KS 1758-2:2016 standard, which is a Code of Practice aimed at establishing guidelines for the safe and sustainable production and supply of fruits and vegetables in Kenya for both export and domestic markets.

Expectations are that the players including the Retail Trade Association of Kenya (RETRAK), who is managing the KS 1758 Pilot Grant, will install a credible, inclusive and transparent quality assurance scheme, geared to demonstrate that the Kenya horticulture industry meets minimum national and market requirements especially in this case for the formal and the informal sector.

The project also aims to encourage public-private cooperation in the Standard’s implementation. These collaborations will ensure that a legislative and regulatory framework is in place, that market actors and laboratories have the capacity to achieve and monitor standard compliance, and that consumers have access to information through certification and early warning systems.