An exposé by NTVs Dennis Okari, that aired on Sunday night, showed how rogue supermarket officials use chemicals, to increase the shelf life of products, putting at risk the lives of millions of Kenyans. Okari spoke to a supermarket attendant, who disclosed that sometimes, meat is laced with food sulphites, also referred to as dawa ya nyama, to make it appear fresh longer.
“Meat shouldn’t get spoilt in the supermarket. It is considered a loss. We try to minimise losses by using the chemicals on fresh, minced and diced beef,” he spoke.
“Every morning before the doors open for customers, we take packaged meat that stayed overnight, remove the cling film and change the date labels to reflect the current date. If the packaging is stained with blood, we change it and put a new wrapping,” he added.
Meat, including beef, chicken, fish and mutton, that is not sold after a week, is cooked and served to unsuspecting customers in in-store cafeterias, the source revealed.
Food experts advise that sulphites are generally safe if used within recommended limits, but they can cause negative side effects like nasal congestion, itchy throat, runny nose, skin rash, and hives in some people.
The supermarket employees only use their eyes to measure the quantities of the chemicals they use, a skill which Okari’s source explained, takes time to learn. To demonstrate the effects of the preservatives, the NTV team bought the chemical from Nairobi’s industrial area and proceeded to mix it with two portions of meat.
The two separate portions were then left for a couple of days and true to their prediction, the meat with the dawa still looked fresh and juicy as opposed to the other portion, that had already begun to discolour and smell.
“Management expects sales even if the meat stays for three or five days. They want profits, that is why we lace the meat with the chemicals.
“New mothers prefer to buy either fish fillet or minced meat to wean their babies as they introduce them to solid foods, but I normally feel guilty because I know the meat has chemicals and is not safe,” explained the attendant.
He disclosed that a good way to tell whether meat has been laced with chemicals is to check for flies around it. Fresh meat that attracts flies is safe for consumption.