Questions are emerging over the procedure of lifting a public health directive issued to Equator Bottlers, the Coca-Cola plant in Western Kenya, just days after it was issued.
As the public celebrated the decision that indicated that indeed Kenya’s public health system is no longer a toothless bulldog, it was withdrawn in circumstances that legal experts say were unprocedural.
The saga began last week after officials from the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation directed the closure of the Coca-Cola plant in Western Kenya for a thorough cleaning exercise.
Led by the Kisumu East district public health officer Naphtali Bundi, they had issued a notice for Equator Bottlers to close down. This followed numerous complaints from members of the public over impurities in the beverages.
During a surprise visit by the public health officials to the factory last week, a crate of soda contaminated with impurities like rodents, cockroaches and used straws was found in the factory raising questions on the professional running of the plant and safety of consumers.
Just when the public and other stakeholders thought that the public health ministry is finally carrying out its core mandate on public safety only for it to revoke orders for the coca-cola plant under unclear circumstances.
Questions are being asked how the officials from the district team lifted the ban with observers arguing that such orders can only be lifted by the minister under the Public Health Act.
A number of businessmen in Kisumu and its environs had welcomed the move but further challenged the ministry to extend the ban to other factories that also handle food stuff and soft drinks.
However the Coca-Cola regional office in Nairobi assured the public that they would fully cooperate with the ministry’s directive but sought to defend its manufacturing record.
The corporate affairs and communication director Norah Odwesso indicated that the plant maintains the highest standards in the world in every aspect of production services and take matters relating to production of beverages seriously.
“We will strive to ensure that our company maintains the required hygienic standards because we are a multinational factory with a reputable image” said Odwesso.
“The ingredients and manufacturing process in the production of our beverages are seriously regulated by government and health authorities in more than 200 countries we operate” confirmed Odwesso.
Earlier the public health Boss in Kisumu Mr. Bundi had indicated that they would only consider re-opening the plant only after they are satisfied that the plant has observed high hygienic conditions in accordance with the Public Health Act.
“The period of re-opening entirely depends on them. We will visit the plant again and inspect if we are satisfied that they have complied then we will issue orders for re-opening” said Bundi
Sentiments that were echoed by the District commissioner for Kisumu East Mabeya Mogaka who confirmed that they will be forced to enlist the services of provincial administration officers to ensure that the directive is followed.