The news outlets have been awash with allegations of imported sugar tainted with toxic heavy metals. The sugar, said to be laced with mercury, lead and copper, can be harmful to human health. But it is not just sugar which poses danger to life. It turns out you can’t reach for a fork without the fear of one poison-laced food or another. Betty Muindi cautions against food that could endanger your health
1. Vegetables grown in raw sewage water
A 2012 research by the University of Nairobi, discovered that sukuma wiki is laced with levels of heavy metals such as lead and coliform, a bacteria found in animal and human fecal matter, beyond what the World Health Organisation (WHO) deems safe.
The toxins are mainly from water sourced from Nairobi River, which is fed with raw sewage and industrial waste. The water is then used on farms for irrigation and in the markets for washing the vegetables.
2. Milk preserved with hydrogen peroxide and mortuary drugs
Chances are that the milk you just bought from your vendor or hawker might have been laced with chemicals. About 60 per cent of milk being sold to the public is adulterated and unfit for human consumption.
Some unscrupulous milk hawkers and vendors use preservatives such as hydrogen peroxide and formalin to prolong the shelf life of milk. Formalin is used to preserve bodies in mortuaries while hydrogen peroxide is a preservative meant to kill bacteria and is a serious health risk that may cause cancer.
3. Bananas ripened using calcium carbide
A potentially harmful compound known as calcium carbide, which has carcinogenic properties is being used to ripen fruits by corrupt traders looking to make a quick buck.
The chemical compound is industrially used in the production of calcium cyanamide for fertiliser and also used in welding. When calcium carbide comes into contact with water, it produces acetylene gas that hastens the ripening of fruits such as mangoes, bananas and apples.
This chemical is hazardous because it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus which both are dangerous to the human body.
4. Potato chips and mandazi fried in transformer oil
Investigations by Kenya Power Company has revealed that vandals siphon oil from transformers for sale to unscrupulous fast food traders. The traders mix the oil with cooking oil and use it to deep fry chips, chicken and mandazis, amongs. Unlike other vegetable oils, transformer oil is stable when heated.
The oil is also said to prevent vegetable oil from darkening and deteriorating fast and therefore, can be reused for several months. Transformer oil, which is made from petroleum, when used for cooking, has adverse health effects.
5. Apples covered with wax
The old adage says, an apple a day, keeps the doctor away. That could no longer be true as revelations through a Facebook video last week showed how farmers and traders in Kenya apply layers of wax on apples to keep them shiny during their journey from the apple orchad to the supermarket.
To stay safe, it is recommended that you thoroughly wash your apples with vinegar or baking soda under running water before you eat.
6. Chicken fattened using ARVs
Chicken lovers have also not been spared in this greedy business. Not long ago, poultry keepers in some parts of Nairobi and neighbouring counties were caught using antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to make chicken fatter. Some brewers were caught using ARVs.
The health effects of consuming ARVs when you are not HIV-positive may cause your body to resist these drugs once you are infected.
7. Githeri boiled in painkillers
It emerged that some roadside food vendors were using painkillers as tenderisers and catalyst to make githeri cook faster, to save on cooking time and fuel.
The painkiller is fragmented and sprinked on githeri when the water starts boiling and within two hours, the food is ready for the table. Painkillers contain paracetamol and asprin, which taken in high doses, pose a health risk to the liver, kidney and stomach. Worse, the combination of paracetamol and asprin can be poisonous when subjected to intense heat.
8. Contaminated water
Nairobi’s poor water and sewage infrastructure as well as the presence of open sewers in the city increases chances of contamination of the available fresh water resources. Contaminated water, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is a breeding ground for cholera, dysentery, typhoid and diarrhoea.
9. Un-inspected meat
Early this week, a man was found skinning a cat in Nakuru. The man admitted to have slaughtered over 1000 cats and sold the meat to unsuspecting samosa traders. Over the years, similar stories of dogs, donkeys and just recently monkeys have reported to be sold to butcheries across the country.
10. Rotten fruits to make juice
Before you down that ‘fresh’ juice, think again. In a recent revelation,restaurants and hotel owners as well as fruit vendors in Nairobi were exposed for making juice from rotten fruits.
Traders in Marikiti and Muthurwa markets disclosed that they keep overripe fruits that even have maggots for fruit vendors who in turn blend ‘fresh’ juice out of them and sell it to unsuspecting clients.