City Hall on the spotlight for failing to test public food handlers in Nairobi
City Hall is on the spotlight for failing to test public food handlers in Nairobi for almost a year, despite collecting the requisite fees, putting into doubt the safety of food being consumed in the capital.
Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) revealed that no public food handler has been issued with a certificate of good health for almost a year as the tests are rarely done by the county’s public health officers.
Mr Robert Juma, KAM Regional Coordinator for Nairobi, faulted City Hall for its lack of capacity to test, track and have proof that one has been tested, saying that the county government has not been conducting the tests and issuing valid medical certificates of good health.
He stated that there are only four licensed public laboratories in the county capable of carrying out the testing, which are already overstretched, meaning that foods consumed in Nairobi are handled by people who are not tested.
“The certificates are not there and the tests are rarely done. This is a major risk to millions of residents because the health status of most of the practicing food handlers remains unknown. This is despite the public health officers demanding that you comply with the six months testing cycle by paying the usual testing fees. And if you do not pay you are arrested,” said Mr Juma.
Mr Juma was speaking on Thursday during a presentation before Nairobi County Assembly Budget and Appropriations committee at City Hall over the Nairobi City County Finance Bill 2019.
He challenged the county government’s public health department to digitize its systems for proper tracking of food handlers, testing and issuance of medical certificates of good health.
The regional coordinator said digitization of the process will enable the county know when the food handlers were tested and when next the test is due for easy follow up to rein on cases where people fake certificates.
“The county government does not seem interested in expanding or allowing organisations like Kemri who have the capacity to test to do the exercise. We strongly feel that the county government should take up the role and not pass it over to the individual food handler,” he said.
The association, with 1, 200 registered members countrywide, 80 percent of whom operate in Nairobi and its environs, faulted the county over a number of new levies proposed by the Finance Bill.
The organisation called on City Hall to scrap the proposed Sh1,000 medical examination booklet charge saying that the introduction of the new charge will only burden the food handlers and their employers without necessarily solving the real problem.
“Transferring the cost of purchasing the medical examination booklets to the food handlers is likely to affect the thousands of the affected persons,” he said.
In March this year, more than 20 cases of cholera were recorded in Nairobi during the outbreak of the disease.
A male staff at Nairobi Hospital later died in April leading to the indefinite closure of the hospital’s cafeteria as the management battled to contain the spread of the outbreak.
Sources at the hospital said that at least 23 cases of the water-borne disease, eight involving staff, had been treated at the facility in April alone.
In 2017, the city county faced a major cholera outbreak prompting the county government to call for closure of roadside food eateries and banning of food hawking.