How safe is that plate of meat ?
Nairobians are best known for their love for nyama choma. But the question is; how safe is the meat they so much love?
Most of the meat comes from slaughterhouses within Nairobi and areas such as Kitengela and Sultan Hamud. The main sources of meat in Nairobi itself are abattoirs including Njiru and Dagoretti.
According to the Chief Public Health Officer at the Ministry of Public Health Kepha Ombacho, the ideal situation is that meat should come from designated abattoirs within Nairobi.
However, this has not stopped unscrupulous dealers who sneak donkey and game meat into the city and sell it to unsuspecting customers.
“We cannot pretend that we are not aware of unscrupulous meat dealers. Traders are inventing new tricks to sneak into the market meat that is not classified as normal. Our greatest challenge is safeguarding people’s health,” said Ombacho.
The law states that meat for consumption must be thoroughly inspected, handled and stored in hygienic conditions.
According to the Food, Drug and Chemical Substances Act, food handlers must be subjected to frequent health check-ups to prevent the spread of diseases.
They should also wear clean and appropriate clothing. Containers used and the transport must meet food safety standards.
In May 2012, the government shut down Burma Market in Shauri Moyo saying the conditions there were deplorable.
The market, famous for its meat, has since been reopened.
“Besides closing down such places, we also educate meat handlers to ensure that they understand the consequences of selling contaminated food,” he said.
Hygiene matters aside. What really is good meat? How does one differentiate good meat from the rest?
According to the Kenya Meat Commission Corporate Affairs and Communications Manager Stella Muhoro, meat goes through certain processes that determine its quality.
“When you slaughter a cow, you are left with the carcass which must be stored for eight hours at four degrees. The cold temperature retards bacterial growth and extends shelf-life. The meat must be transported in a cold chain- uninterrupted,” she said.
As a layman buying meat, it might be difficult to differentiate good meat from bad, but there are a few pointers you need to look out for;
“Our casual approach to the meat we eat is dangerous. You have a right to know its source and ask questions. You should be able to trust its source,” advised Muhoro.
Where a slaughtered animal is found by the inspecting officer to be disease free, the meat is fit for consumption. It is then stamped with the mark of approval which must be legible and should tell which slaughterhouse the meat came from.
Muhoro said all the meat transported within Nairobi must have a certificate of transport issued by the inspecting officer at its source.
The certificate must be displayed in the butchery or shop where it is sold. You should also be worried if your butcher slaughters the animal at his butchery.
The law dictates that the meat must be inspected before, during and after slaughter. All slaughterhouses must have an inspecting officer.
This could be a veterinary officer, a health inspector or any other person authorised by the Director of Veterinary Services.
Once you buy your meat from a reliable source, you are required to handle it properly to avoid contamination. The way you cook the meat also matters.
“It is important to cool the meat properly and handle it in a sanitary manner because you – the buyer – could also be a source of disease,” said Ombacho.
There is no problem eating donkey meat only that it has to be inspected and certified as fit for consumption.
However, if you are serving or selling donkey meat, inform your customers,” said Muhoro.
So far, there is no licensed donkey abattoir in Nairobi.