Researchers Say Nairobi Chicken Poses Health Threats

KENYA - Research conducted by Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) recently established that most of the chicken sold in butcheries, supermarkets and retail outlets in Nairobi pose a serious health threat to consumers.
calendar icon 15 September 2014
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The chicken, now popular over health fears of red meat, are highly contaminated with disease causing germs, some of which do not respond to common medicines, according to Kenya's Standard Digital.

A survey covering Nairobi says the meat is not only highly contaminated, but also with germs that are hard to kill. Led by Dr Samuel Kariuki of Kemri, the researchers are calling on officials in the health sector to ensure hygiene principles in the processing and handling of chicken in retail outlets are immediately enforced for public safety.

The researchers, funded by the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, collected samples of raw chicken meat in 28 locations in Nairobi.

The poorer the area, the more contaminated the meat was found to be. Of the samples tested, 97 per cent was found to be contaminated with coliform bacteria while more than three-quarters with E.coli.

Of the germs identified, 75 per cent were resistant to at least one of the 12 common antibiotics. Coliform bacteria and the subtype E.coli are found in the environment and in the faeces of warm blooded animals, including humans.

In this case, about half of the E.coli strains found in the sampled meat are known to cause bloody diarrhoea, kidney failure and even death. The team, including Joyce Arua Odwar of the Institute of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, warns Kenyans who buy raw chicken from retail outlets to cook it well.

The team says chicken meat in the local market is highly contaminated by the way its processed and handled by butchers. "The use of bare hands in handling meat, utensils and money at the same time may have increased chances of contamination," the report says.

Several years back, Kemri collected and analysed coins and paper money circulating in Nairobi, and established that the monies are covered with disease-causing agents.

The common trend in which small-scale producers slaughter chicken at home then distribute to retailers was also found to be a cause of contamination.

"All samples from supermarkets and a majority of those from high income butcheries were products of government approved private chicken slaughter houses and were less contaminated," says the study published in the BMC Research Notes.

While transporting most of the slaughtered chicken, the researchers say the carcasses are normally lumped together in a large container or sack allowing transfer of germs from one carcass to the other. While chicken from the small-scale producers, in most cases also involving indigenous breeds, may be more contaminated than from large producers, the latter was more likely to carry hard to treat bacteria.

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