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Dairy farmers, others urged on hygiene standards

FORT PORTAL, November 21, 2023 – Dairy farmers and other milk handlers have been urged to mind proper hygiene standards while handling milk to ensure it is safe for human consumption.

According to the latest findings, milk being sold in Fort Portal City does not meet the safety standards set by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards [UNBS] after laboratory test results showed the milk contains coliform bacteria.

Coliform are bacteria that are always present in human waste and are also found in soil material.

According to scientists, most coliform bacteria are not harmful. However, some can make a person sick. A person who has been exposed to these bacteria may have an upset stomach, vomiting, fever, or diarrhea. Children and the elderly are more at risk from these bacteria

Benard Bwambale, a nutritionist and dietist at Kabarole Research and Resource centre [KRC] told this reporter that during the recent campaign on food safety, they thought it wise to collect some samples of milk, meat, tomatoes, and maize floor among others for testing to ascertain their safety and how it can be improved.

Bwambale said samples were randomly collected from Kabundaire, Mpanga, Kasusu and Kachwamba markets and other milk outlets around Fort Portal City.

“We took the samples we collected to the UNBS for testing because we had no capacity to test them. But the results were shocking! Other samples passed the test but milk and meat samples failed all the tests,” he said.

He said he test results showed that milk samples contain numerous coliform bacteria hence rendering it unsafe for human consumption.

Bwambale said this is due to poor handling of milk either at the farm, during transportation or by the seller.

“Farmers and milk handlers need to ensure optimal hygiene and sanitation as well as desist from milk adulteration. Farmers have a habit of adding dirty water in the milk to increase on the quantity but compromises its quality, this is very unfortunate,” he said.

He however appealed to milk consumers to thoroughly boil the milk at about 600 degrees and ensure to use clean stainless steel cans.

Bwambale said it is unsafe to sell milk from jerrycans because most handlers don’t wash them well and called upon the general public to desist from keeping milk in jerrycans.

The same results from UNBS which were released last month indicate that meat samples failed to meet the safety standards.

Farmers delivering milk at Tooro Dairy in Fort Portal City (Photo by Scovia Atuhaire).

Bwambale said the laboratory tests show that meat samples that were collected from Mpanga Market contain faucal particles which indicate that it is contaminated.

“We really need to ensure that our abattoirs are always clean, especially during the rainy season like this and also those transporting the meat should mind about its hygiene without forgetting those with butchers,” he said.

Bwambale revealed that the findings confirm that there is poor meat handling from abattoirs to butchers, blending old meat with fresh meat, and poor hygiene of the abattoirs as some of the issues that make meat unfit for consumption.

The Fort Portal City Senior Health Inspector, Lucy Kahunde noted that the city is carrying out sensitization drives among food dealers on observing standards and called upon all farmers to treat food safety as a priority while handling food items both on the farm and in the market.

Experts in nutrition, food rights advocacy, and consumer protection believe that if the food one eats is not safe, then it’s not food.

A number of experts warn that the food we consume gets contaminated right from the garden, storage, markets, and at preparation.

At the market level, the food is laid on the ground, meat sliced on unhygienic surfaces like logs, and unhealthy chemicals are used in preservation. Freshly treated animals are sold for slaughter, further exposing the consumer to health risks.

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