Mombasa-based Kitui Flour Mills (KFM) has recalled 48,000 packets of its Dola brand maize flour after Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) flagged the product over alleged dangerous levels of aflatoxin.
KFM General Manager Ahmed Taib said the operation to recall more Dola products is ongoing.
The two-kilogram packets represent 96 tonnes of its lead brand that have been recalled since Sunday.
Mr Taib also said they have also stopped receiving maize from suppliers until they get clearance from Kebs.
“As you can see we have packed all our Dola brands. We are only doing packaging for our Maisha brand,” said Mr Taib.
KFM’s legal officer, Ms Faith Sowayi, said they have contacted all their clients across the country and notified them about the plans to recall the product shortly after the Kebs’ warning statement on November 9, 2019.
“So far the 48,000 packets that we have recalled are from the major outlets like the supermarkets and other retail outlets across the country…,” said Ms Sowayi, who spoke on behalf of Mr Taib in an exclusive interview with K24 Digital on Monday.
She, however, said the announcement by Kebs was appalling since laboratories results, both internal and external, have given their products a clean bill of health.
“We have given priority to our clients’ health and that is why we have our laboratories and a team of technicians to test the products before they are further checked by external labs,” she said.
“All our products released to the market are first checked here.”
Mr George Magero, a lab technician at KFM said that samples of each brand are examined separately at the lab using the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) machine that tests aflatoxin levels in terms of parts-per-billion (ppb).
“Testing process here takes between 25 to 30 minutes. The maximum allowed levels of aflatoxin is usually 10 ppb while all our products have shown much lower levels of only 1.5 ppb,” said Mr Magero.
Tens of trucks ferrying maize into the factory were still queuing outside the company offices after they were reportedly barred from offloading their cargo.
“I have 28 tonnes of maize loaded on my truck. I arrived here since Thursday morning all the way from Kitale, but I was told that I cannot offload following Kebs directive. Now, I am stranded together with my fellow drivers. We don’t know what to do because we have used all the money plus mileage allowance that we were given by our bosses,” said Mr Abraham Lagat, a truck driver.
Another driver, Mr Suleiman Musa, said they were perturbed by Kebs directive, saying it is not clear why the Dola brand tested positive for aflatoxin while other brands tested negative yet “we are the ones who supplied them with maize from Kitale which they use for milling. We are the same people who supply maize to this company and even Mombasa Maize Millers. So how come Dola is being blocked?”
Aflatoxins are toxic compounds produced by Aspergillus molds that infest staple crops such as maize, peanuts, rice, and wheat throughout the world.
And chronic low-level exposure to aflatoxins, particularly aflatoxin B1, is associated with increased risk of developing liver cancer, impaired immune function, and malnutrition.
Acute high-level exposure, which is less common, causes early symptoms of diminished appetite, malaise, and low fever.