- Peas from Kenya, one of the country's major export hits, are being withdrawn from the Norwegian market as health authorities have linked them to an exceptional outbreak of dysentery in the Nordic country.
Dysentery is a waterborne disease causing severe diarrhoea, which, left untreated, can be fatal. In Scandinavia, the disease is normally only diagnosed among citizens travelling to exotic destinations, and the Norwegian Food Safety Authority in May launched an investigation into a possible source of infection as many non-travelling citizens suddenly caught the bacterial infection.
According to the investigation of the Authority, "imported peas from Kenya are probably the cause" of the dysentery outbreak in Norway. The government agency immediately prohibited further sale of Kenyan peas on the Norwegian market and advised consumers to avoid this vegetable.
Also Norway's National Veterinary Institute had launched investigations into imported Kenyan peas and preliminary test results had connected the bacteria causing dysentery to the peas. "This provides for a strong indication towards the source of infection and is the reason behind the sales prohibition," according to the Food Safety Authority.
The retail chain Coop, which had distributed the infected peas, immediately withdrew the Kenyan product from the market, according to a statement by the chain's press spokesman Bjørn Kløvstad.
Fresh vegetables are an increasingly important export product for Kenyans, which have seen the doors to European markets opening during the last years. Peas, beans and other legume and vegetables, seldom consumed in Kenya, are produced mainly for the European market and exported before parallel European products hit home markets later in the season.
Food safety has been among the key issues African producers have had to adapt to before being allowed into the heavily regulated European markets, with hygiene standards being difficult to meet. Consumers' trust has been difficult to gain, and the dysentery affair in Norway may lead to a major setback for Kenyan fresh products on that market as the outbreak has causes great headlines in Norway.
However, the Norwegian market is rather small, and dysentery cases linked to Kenyan peas have not been reported from any other European country so far. Even in Norway, the outbreak is so far only linked to Kenyan peas distributed through Coop, with peas sold in other retail chains not showing signs of the bacteria. The market damage caused for Kenyan producers therefore still is limited.
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