Campaign launched for food safety and proper handling during Covid-19

In Summary

• A concept note by the State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research jointly with MARKUP shows the rising demand for green leafy vegetables and fruits has encouraged production, marketing and distribution.

• “Food safety can be affected by this commercial pressure since the demand for vegetables and fruits override the need for safe food,” reads the concept note in part.

A worker checks quality of a face mask on production line.
A worker checks quality of a face mask on production line.
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

A campaign for food safety and precautionary handling measures for fruits and salads in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has reached more than one million people in the past one week.

The food safety communication campaign aims at creating awareness on necessary measures which should be taken by food handlers at different stages, from production to consumption.

The initiative by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) is set to reach millions of people in the next two months through digital and traditional media platforms.

Through the European Union funded project dubbed Market Access Upgrade Program (MARKUP), UNIDO will distribute posters to 15 counties across the country including Nairobi and Mombasa which have recorded the highest cases Covid-19 positive cases.

Other counties include Nakuru, Bungoma, Kajiado, Machakos, Busia, Uasin Ngishu, Makueni and Taita Taveta.

The campaign will pass numerous messages such as the need for wash hands with soap and water before handling food and maintaining safe distance of at least two meters between buyers and sellers.

Diligently washing reusable shopping bags and to sanitising kitchen surfaces is also emphasized in the campaign.

The messages target stakeholders along the food chain, from producers, transporters, chefs and stewards as well as consumers.

The move to pass these messages come at a time when the world is keen on taking every preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19 which has paralysed business across the world and left more than half a million people dead globally.

UNIDO is in partnership with Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD), Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Department, Ministry of Agriculture, among others to implement the campaign.

“There is need for food handlers like sellers and buyers to always wear masks and gloves in the fresh produce markets, supermarkets and shopping malls,” said Stefano Sedola, UNIDO Chief Technical Advisor for MARKUP project.

While noting that some of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be expensive for a section of the society, Sedola said some governments were providing them for their citizenry.

“Kenyans are opting for washable masks as they are reusable. However, a section of people still remain adamant especially while handling food,” he said.

Sedola said contamination along the vegetable and fruit value chain would have serious implications for human health and life and amounts to a significant public health risk.

A concept note by the State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research jointly with MARKUP shows the rising demand for green leafy vegetables and fruits has encouraged production, marketing and distribution.

“Food safety can be affected by this commercial pressure since the demand for vegetables and fruits override the need for safe food,” reads the concept note in part.

Leafy vegetables are prone to microbial contamination such as E-Coli and Salmonella while in the field, during harvesting, in post-harvest handling, processing, distribution and marketing.

“A currently added risk to the food system, including vegetables and fruits is the Covid-19 which can be transmitted to surfaces by infected individuals,” he said