STAND-OFF

Port health officers, Kebs clash over rights to inspect imports

In Summary

•Kebs is currently the lead agency in conducting inspection of goods at the port of entry

•Apho-K officers said this will continue to compromise quality of standards of food, drugs and chemical substances entering Kenya

Workers offloads fertilizer at the Port o Mombasa
Workers offloads fertilizer at the Port o Mombasa
Image: FILE

The Association of Public Health Officers of Kenya (Apho-K) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) are tussling over the inspection of food at the ports of entry.

Apho-K has sued the state, Kebs and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) for being denied permission to perform inspection duties of food and drugs entering the country.

In a petition, Apho-K said their function at the sea port of entry cannot be substituted with that of Kebs personnel or any other government agency premised at the points of entries as only their health officers have the technical know-how of carrying out the functions.

Kebs is currently the lead agency in conducting inspection of goods at the country of origin where they also issue Certificates of Conformity (CoC).

Apho-K officers said this will continue to compromise quality of standards of food, drugs and chemical substances entering Kenya through critical border points.

The officers have also singled out the case in which Kebs, in exercising the power granted to them by the circular, released a consignment of 23 tonnes of rotten ginger.

They claimed that Kebs inspectors defied alarms raised by the port health office at Kalindini port in discharging their functions as per their statutory obligation.

“The government circular does not address the concern of ensuring that only food, drugs, and other substances that enter the country through seaports of entry are fit for human consumption and use,” the petition by the advocate, Onyango Allan states.

However, according to Kebs, the statement stems from a misunderstanding of the circular.

“In a regulatory environment, inspection is done against standards or specifications that are informed by the intended use of a product,” Kebs acting communications manager Zeyana Abdullah said in a statement to the Star.

“In this case, the ginger was imported as a raw material for extraction of essential oils for export with the Export Processing Zone in Athi River and not as food.”

Abdullah said they allowed the product in on the basis that consignments had been supported by a Plants Import Permit and Phytosanitary Certificate from the country of origin issued by competent authorities, and was moving to a manufacturing site as a raw material.

“The shipment has not entered the market but is at the EPZ factory,” she said.

On June 4, the head of public service issued a circular to all cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries and heads of state agencies on operationalisation and improvement of cargo logistics at the ports of entry and inland container depots.

The circular stipulated that only KPA, KRA, Kenya Railways Corporation and Kebs would operate within the port.