Kenya: Imported Chinese fish allegedly contain excessive amount of lead, raising safety concerns
“Chinese fish found with 427 times recommended amount of lead”, 19 February 2020
… Concerns on the safety of fish imported from China were first raised in early 2019.
At the time, most of the Chinese fish in Kenya was repackaged together with stocks from Lake Victoria after landing in Nairobi to fool consumers that it had all been sourced locally.
A Nation investigation then revealed that the fish had traces of mercury, lead, arsenic and copper. When we shared our findings with the Kenya National Bureau of Standards (KEBS), the agency whose job it is to set safety standards, denied that the fish imports posed any danger to human health.
“All imports to Kenya are required to be tested in the country of origin and if they meet the specifications in the standards, they are issued with a certificate of conformity. Upon arrival in Kenya, the imports are subjected to destination inspection,” Kebs said at the time.
A year later, the Nation went back and sampled even bigger numbers of the fish, this time from Kisumu, and the results were shocking.
… we bought a 10-kg box of Tilapia fish freshly shipped from China…
… We took the box to the lab at the University of Nairobi for testing. The results revealed that cheap is, indeed, expensive. The fish samples had seven dangerous pesticides among them phosalone, which was detected at 0.07 parts per million (ppm). This is seven times more than the maximum allowable limit (MAL) of 0.01 ppm.
Other pesticides detected in the fish from China include tolyfluanid (0.022 ppm), flutonail (0.022ppm), deltamethrin (0.026ppm), acrinathrin (0.005ppm), pretilachlor (0.005) and tebufenpyrad at 0.001ppm.
These classes of pesticides can cause cancer, mouth ulceration, dysphagia and abdominal pain, among other diseases, if ingested. However, this is not all that Kenyans should worry about.
Lead in fish from China was found at 42.7 ppm. This is 427 times the FAO/WHO recommended level of 0.1ppm…
The same fish samples had relatively high levels of zinc (Zn) though below the CODEX MAL of 30ppm. Excess Zinc causes stomach flu or what is known as gastroenteritis. This is a common condition that causes diarrhoea and vomiting.
… Lead causes decreased mental ability, damages the nervous system and impedes physical development in children. In adults, it causes high blood pressure, kidney damage and reduced fertility…
Prof James Mbaria, the lead researcher in the project, said the fish was not fit for human consumption given its contamination levels. This means agencies involved in testing of the fish samples such as Kebs must have failed to carry out effective tests before allowing such fish to be sold in the market.
The alternative is uglier. It means that importers presented clean fish for testing to get the import certificates and then lowered their standards along the way…