Food safety in Kenya: Focus on fruits and vegetables

Eric Yen, Vivian Hoffman, Delia Grace, Joseph Karugia
project note

Consumption of fruits and vegetables is important for maintaining good health and preventing chronic disease; Kenyans consume too little of these foods relative to dietary recommendations. Contaminated fruits and vegetables are an important conduit of foodborne disease (FBD), which represents a significant share of the global burden of disease, particularly in Africa. Improving the safety of fruits and vegetables and increasing their consumption are both important for improving population health. Concern about food safety is high among consumers who shop at supermarkets and specialty grocery stores in Nairobi, and prices for fruits and vegetables in these outlets far above those observed in open-air markets. This suggests significant potential for farmers to benefit economically from the production of safe, high-quality produce if credible certification systems can be developed. The FBD burden, as well as premium market opportunities for horticultural producers, are set to continue to increase in Kenya as a burgeoning middle class demands a more diversified and nutritious diet. Risk of FBD can be reduced at every stage, from farm to fork. Increasing awareness among farmers, processors, retailers, and consumers is thus a critical step toward safer food in Kenya The Kenyan government has laid out a comprehensive set of actions to improve food safety in the 2013 National Food Safety Policy, but these have yet to be implemented. Many of these interventions could be taken up by county governments. Success by KEPHIS in the enforcement of regulations in crops destined for export demonstrate the potential for public action to improve food safety in Kenya, and should be emulated in the domestic market.