CONTROVERSY

Kebs, CS Munya differ on edible oil release

It is mandatory to fortify vegetable fats and oils with vitamin A

In Summary

• Trade CS Peter Munya had earlier said 58 containers had been released to the owners.

• Kenya Bureau of Statistics(Kebs) on the other hand says none of the impounded 500 containers has been released.

Parliamentary committee chairman on Trade Kanini Kega with vice chairman Cornelly Serem and MP Daniel Maazo inspect the imported edible oil in Mombasa on Monday, August 19, 2019.
Parliamentary committee chairman on Trade Kanini Kega with vice chairman Cornelly Serem and MP Daniel Maazo inspect the imported edible oil in Mombasa on Monday, August 19, 2019.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

None of the impounded 500 containers of edible oil has been released, the Kenya Bureau of Statistics(Kebs) has insisted, bringing a new twist to the Sh10 billion controversial consignment being held by government.

This contradicts Trade CS Peter Munya's earlier revelation that 58 had been discharged to the importers, even as questions hang around the clearance to import unfortified edible oil against the country's standards.

Fortification requirements are incorporated in Kenya Standards pursuant to a regulation by Ministry of Health to add one or more vitamin and, or mineral to a food.

The ministry has made it mandatory to fortify wheat flour with zinc and iron, dry milled maize products with zinc and iron, salt with iodine and vegetable fats and oils with vitamin A.

The government impounded Sh10 billion worth of edible oil last year , raising questions on why the affected importers were cleared in the first place to bring in the commodity.

Munya on August 14 said the decision to release part of the consignment was reached by a multi-agency team, including the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

“58 containers have so far been released. It is not is not harmful to the public," Munya told journalists in Nairobi.

Kebs however denounced the CS yesterday saying “none” has been released to the owners.

“As required by Kenya Standards, it is not supposed to be sold in the local market unless a exemption of that requirement is given as provided under the law,” Kebs told the Star.

“When they were randomly tested they were found not to meet the requirements of Vitamin A as specified in KS: EAS 769:2012 Kenya Standard - specification for fortified edible oils,” the standards body said.

Munya had said those seeking to sell the oil will be allowed but must declare the product as not fortified.

"Kebs will undertake market surveillance to ensure compliance," Munya told Journalists at his office.

The CS who had called an impromptu press conference at his office said the decision was reached by a multi-agency team, including the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

The announcement by Kebs now throws a spin on the edible oil saga which has attracted the attention of manufacturers and parliament.

On August 19, the National Assembly Committee on Trade stopped the release of the oil.

The Kanini Kega-led committee said Kebs last year declared the oil, imported from Asian countries, unfit for consumption.

“We got wind that some containers, which were seized last year containing edible oil, have been released into the local market. We know for sure, that the KEBS, has said the imported oil did not meet a certain threshold, hence could not be released into the market,” said Kega.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has also urged the government to reconsider the release of the oil until it is tested and found fit for human consumption.

The value of the oil cannot be determined, Kebs said, since not all had been declared.

According to the standard body, either proper, fortification was not done at the country of exportation or cooking oil had not been properly tested before certification which gave rise to varying outcome.

Kenya has contracted a number of agents to conduct pre-shipment inspection under the Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PvoC) programme, where goods are verified and approved to conform to the Kenyan standards before allowed to be shipped.

Kebs defended its agents saying the PVOC programme is effective notwithstanding the fact that a number of cases have been impounded on quality issues at destination.

“Whereas in some cases failure may be caused by use of different test methods, many failures noted relate to post certification handling of goods,” it said.