The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service this week trained over 65 fruit and vegetable exporters on international market requirements for food safety on exports to the European Union at a time when EU have dictated strict standards for products imported from other countries.
The EU has placed Kenya on the radar as one of the countries with 10 per cent increased Maximum Residual Levels (MRLs), which are the set legal levels of concentration of pesticide residues in or on food.
“We urge producers and exporters of fresh produce such as French beans, avocados, flowers and passion fruits to strictly adhere to pesticide application as recommended by the Pest Control Products Board by using the right procedures to reduce the number of interceptions,” said Dr. Esther Kimani, KEPHIS Managing Director.
The training focused on the current compliance requirements by the European market.
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Food safety is of major concern by consumers due to rising cases of lifestyle diseases such as cancer where more than 40,000 new ccses reported each year in Kenya with an estimated 27000 deaths.
Trainees were therefore, urged to implement systemic food safety practices so as to comply before and during supply with both the local and export market requirements. They are also required to maintain quality, good hygiene and sanitation in the production, storage, processing and packaging of food as hazards such as biological, chemical and physical can be present.
In this, food exported to the EU market must meet the legislation on food labeling. Cartons of fruits or vegetables must mention the name and address of the packer and dispatchers, the country of origin, the name of the produce, the class and size and lot number for traceability.
As for plant health, the EU has set limits for contaminants such as nitrate in spinach and lettuce. The contaminants may have been added to the food accidentally during the packaging process and might destroy the quality of the produce. Exporters also have to check for presence of lead and mercury in fruits such as avocados.
Foods to the EU are also subjected to official controls. This includes documentary checks, identity checks, and physical checks.
On documentary checks, the exporter has to proof of origin of his produce with a bill of lading, phytosanitary certificate, packing list and custom documentation. The checks are done at the point of entry into the EU.
Apples, citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet pepper, pears and table grape exporters must accompany the produce with a certificate of conformity for each consignment.
Imports of products intended for processing are not subject to compliance with the EU marketing standards. However, these must be clearly marked by the pack with the words “intended for processing”
Most EU buyers (for example traders, food processors, retailers) require the implementation of a food safety management system based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).
The most commonly requested food safety certification scheme, essential for exporting fresh produce to Europe, is GLOBALG.A.P. This is a pre-farm-gate standard that covers the whole agricultural production process, from before the plant is in the ground to the non-processed product (processing not covered). GLOBALG.A.P. has become a minimum standard for most European supermarkets.