Is restaurant food safe? County under scrutiny for fake food handling certificates
The County Government of Nairobi is facing scrutiny from the County Assembly Committee of Health after it was revealed that fake food handling certificates have been distributed to some hotels, raising serious concerns about public health.
The issuance of these certificates, designed to be provided to all food service professionals in the county, falls under the purview of the Health department.
These revelations came to light during a session held on Wednesday, September 27, with key officials, including County Executive Committee Member of Health Ms Susan Silantoi, Chief Officer in charge of Health Facilities Geofrey Omatoke Mosiria, Chief Officer for Public Health Tom Michira Nyakaba, and Acting Director of Environmental Health Ms Margaret Sunguti.
Led by Mountain View MCA Maurice Onyango Ochieng, the committee heard admissions from Ms Sunguti regarding the existence of fake certificates within some restaurants.
Ms Sunguti concurred with the committee’s findings from impromptu site visits, revealing that out of the 400,000 official certificates issued since June, 580 were discovered to be counterfeit.
These fraudulent certificates have raised concerns about the Health department’s competence and possible collusion with criminal elements to distribute counterfeit certificates, thereby jeopardizing the health of Nairobi residents and exposing them to risks of food poisoning and related health issues resulting from poor hygiene practices.
While defending her office, Ms Sunguti explained that the medical certification process had been digitized by the Nairobi Revenue Authority (NRA), where officials must meticulously review all documentation before issuing certificates.
“There is nowhere I provided my signature on the medical certificates… but from our investigations, I am aware of fake medical certificates following complaints that were reported to the Chief Officer’s office,” stated Ms Sunguti.
Despite fake certificates, the county has generated close to Ksh 28 million in revenue from the legitimate certificates issued since June.
Health CEC Ms Silantoi requested additional time to provide the committee with a comprehensive report, citing the presence of the media as a reason.
However, this request was denied by the committee chairperson, who accused the CEC of attempting to interfere with their oversight duties.
“You will not direct us on how we do our work… we need to inform Nairobians of what is happening. The committee is fulfilling its role and must not be interfered with,” Mr Ochieng declared.
The CEC also faced criticism for previously ignoring invitations from the committee to appear and address questions related to her office’s activities.