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CONTAMINATED FRUITS AND VEGETABLES POSING HEALTH RISKS FOR KENYANS

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Heavy use of pesticides in vegetables and fruits

Kenyans are unknowingly exposing themselves to a myriad of health problems by consuming vegetables and fruits that are heavily laced with pesticides, a new study has revealed.

According to a joint study by the University Of Nairobi and Strathmore University titled, Evaluation of the Safety of Selected Fruits and Vegetables Sold in the Domestic Markets in Kenya, the pesticide residues found in the samples were above the recommended maximum levels by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In particular, there was a heavy use of pesticides in tomatoes, kales (sukumawiki), amaranth (managu), tomatoes and mangoes being sold in the towns featured in the study which included Nairobi, Machakos and Nakuru among others. The samples were taken from both the open air markets and the supermarkets.

According to the researchers, pesticides can cause health problems such as birth defects, nerve damage and cancer in the human body over a long period of time.

POOR HANDLING LEADING TO CONTAMINATION

The study also shows that poor production and handling practices has resulted in the contamination of vegetables and fruits by harmful bacteria and fungi. Water, manure and modes of transport were singled out as key sources of contamination.

Ironically, the study reveals that fruits and vegetables grown in different towns in Kenya offer different nutritional values.

“The nitrate content in the leafy vegetables (kales and amaranth), tomatoes and mangoes varied greatly ranging from above 200mg/100g fwb in mangoes sold in the supermarkets in Machakos town to 50mg/100g fwb in tomatoes sold in open air market in Nairobi, “states the report.

The study was conducted between July and August last year and the lead researchers were University of Nairobi’s Dr Cecelia Onyango, a lecturer at the Department Of Plant Science And Crop Protection;  and Dr Catherine Kunyanga, lecturer at The Department Of Food Science, Nutrition And Technology.

ARTIFICIAL RIPENING

In March this year, another expose revealed that there was a rampant artificial ripening of fruits in the country with health experts warning that the ripening agent being used could cause cancer to unsuspecting consumers.

It was reported that traders in Nairobi’s Gikomba, Marikiti and Mombasa’s Kongowea markets were using calcium carbide, a chemical used for welding and making plastics, to quicken the ripening process of fruits such as mangoes, bananas and apples.

Related Kenya Forum posting: ‘Why fruits are no longer a healthy option’ (27 March, 2014)

 

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