A scandal has enveloped Kenya's food safety sector, involving 125,000 metric tonnes of imported edible oil, valued at Ksh.16.5 billion, procured in June 2023. Lawmaker Kibagendi accused Esther Ngari, the CEO of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), of initially deeming the oil unfit for human consumption, only to retract her statement following alleged clandestine meetings and threats.
Public Trust Threatened by Oil Scandal
The controversy has ignited a fervent debate over the oil's safety after KEBS cleared it, stating that the levels of Vitamin A and insoluble impurities are not health check parameters. This issue has stoked concerns about the integrity of the public system, with Kibagendi suggesting that corruption permeates the highest government echelons.
Chronology of the Scandal
KEBS initially informed the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC), the importer, in September that the edible oil was not fit for consumption and should be reshipped. However, a reevaluation on November 6 led KEBS to reverse its decision. The Bureau announced that the oil met all health and safety parameters, despite earlier reservations.
KEBS Assurance amid Controversy
KEBS confirmed that the edible oils imported by KNTC complied with safety parameters, except for Vitamin A levels. The Bureau uses the Pre-Export Verification of Conformity technique to assess imported products. Although KEBS has rejected some consignments of edible oil in the past, it now assures the public of the oil's safety. The bureau reiterated that the imported edible oil is safe for human consumption, meeting health and safety standards, despite not complying with Vitamin A requirements.