Where is it safer to buy your sukuma wiki?
There are chemicals that are harmful to the body which can get into your sukuma wiki. Where do you buy yours and how can you ensure its safety?
For most Kenyans, little thought is put into where sukuma wiki (kales) is bought for consumption. Some visit the supermarket shelves for their kales, while others get them from open markets. But where is it safer to buy your sukuma wiki?
Star carried out an in-depth investigation to find out where is safer. They collected samples of sukuma wiki from two major supermarkets and from different food markets across Nairobi.
Supermarkets or open markets: where is it safer to buy your sukuma wiki?
One kilogramme of sukuma wiki sample was collected from each of the following markets: Gikomba, Marikiti, Korogocho market in Kariobangi, Kangemi, and Githurai market. One kilogramme was also collected from Naivas supermarket in Westlands and Nakumatt supermarket in Lavington.
The test was carried out in Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) and then at a private laboratory for verification purposes. The test and analysis centered on determining the levels of metals, lead, mercury, iron, copper and cadmium in sukuma wiki in Nairobi markets.
It was discovered by Kephis that sukuma wiki bought from Naivas and Nakumatt contained 0.13mg per kilo and 0.15mg per kilo of mercury. This fell outside WHO acceptable limits of 0.1 per kilo.
While the samples from open markets contained 0.007mg per kilo and a maximum of 0.1 mg per kilo. This fell within WHO acceptable limits.
Therefore, going by these results, it is safer for you to buy your sukuma wiki from open markets than supermarkets.
How dangerous is mercury and lead in your sukuma wiki?
Usually, the total level of mercury is low in both plants and animals. But, repeated exposure can be very dangerous to health.
Methylmercury has toxic effects on health if collected over the years. The nervous, digestive and immune systems, reproductive organs, lungs, kidneys, skin, and eyes, can be severely affected.
According to a WHO fact list posted on its website in 2017, Mercury is a major threat to public health. Because even exposure to smaller amounts poses a threat to human development. And especially, it is harmful to children in the early stages of life.
Kenyatta University senior lecturer Dr. Richard Oduor also has this to say: “Signs and symptoms usually do not appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated. The poisoning can cause severe mental and physical impairment,” said Dr. Oduor from the Biochemistry and Biotechnology department.
How does mercury contaminate your sukuma wiki?
By now you might be wondering how these heavy metals find their way into your sukuma wiki. Dr. David Mwangi, Agriculture ministry's Plant Protection Service head, provided some insight.
“This is likely to happen if the food is grown in places where the soil or irrigation water is contaminated with discharge from factories,” he said.
"Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation director-general, Dr. Eliud Kireger, corroborated Dr. David Mwangi's theory.
“But what happens is that some of these farmers sometimes deliberately puncture the sewer lines. They use the sewage water as fertiliser and yet it has microbes that cause disease,” Dr. Kireger said.
“It also has heavy metals because the water from the sewage is combined with chemicals from industrial parks. There are chemicals washed into the drainage system that contains paint from the car wash, which has Lead. All these are absorbed into the vegetables and we end up eating them.”
How can you safely grow and preserve your sukuma wiki?
Agriculture CAS Andrew Tuimur has warned Kenyans against growing sukuma wiki at the roadsides. This ist to avoid the emission of gases that may lead to lead contamination.
“Traders should ensure they transport kales in closed vehicles. Consumers should avoid buying vegetables that are sold by the roadside. Markets that are beside the roads should be enclosed or pushed far from the roads,” he said.
Source: The Star