Investigations have revealed that most butchers in Kenya are adding a killer chemical to preserve meat.
The butchers are said to be using sodium metabisulphite– a white powdery chemical locally referred to as dawa ya nyama (the meat drug) – to make meat look fresh.
The chemical is usually mixed with water and once smeared on meat which has been in the butchery for weeks, it gives it a fresh red look, duping unsuspecting customers.
It is easily accessible to the business people since it’s available in chemists and agrovets for Sh650 per 500-gramme container.
According to laboratory tests carried out on meat samples purchased from supermarkets and butcheries in Nairobi and surrounding regions, over 98 milligrammes of sodium metabisulphite per kilogramme of minced meat was detected.
Scientists say the chemical can cause cancer and by international standards, fresh meat is not supposed to contain any preservative.
Although the Health Ministry prohibits the use of chemicals to preserve meat, retail outlets have claimed they have not received any complaints from consumers regarding the quality of the meat.
“This is adulteration. The use of chemicals is illegal and the meat is not up to standard,” said Dr Kepha Ombacho, the Director of Public Health.
The Ministry has standardised preservation methods — which include salting, deep freezing and smoking, all of which are harmless.
Other uses of sodium metabisulphite include; removing tree stumps, a bleaching agent in the production of Coconut cream and in the water treatment industry to quench chlorine residual.
It may cause allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to sulphites, including respiratory reactions in asthmatics, anaphylaxis and other allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.