By Gatonye Gathura
Hotel workers mainly from the poor eastern estates of Nairobi may be the cause of recent food poisoning outbreaks in the County.
A new study shows most food handlers, at all classes of hotels in Nairobi, carry dangerous germs that may be responsible for food poisoning among clients.
The study involving food handlers seeking medical certificates at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, (KEMRI) showed up to a third of applicants to carry highly drug resistant germs.
All these, 323 were already employed food handlers despite that 70 per cent had never had a valid food handling license.
The study found hotel workers residing in the poorer eastern region of the city but working all over Nairobi to carry the highest volumes of dangerous germs. This was in comparison to hotel workers residing in western and more affluent parts of Nairobi.
“Most isolates were from individuals residing within the eastern region of Nairobi commonly characterized by sanitation challenges such as lack of potable water and poor sewerage and drainage systems,” says the study.
Eastlands covers among others Umoja, Kariokor, Dandora, Kariobangi, Embakasi, Donholm, Kayole and Huruma.
The results posted last week, found the multiple drug resistant germs to spread to all parts of Nairobi County including Makadara, Embakasi, Kasarani, Westlands, Langata and the Central Business District.
Study participants were food handles from all classes of hotels in Nairobi from roadside kiosks, middle class to five star establishments.
Low class outlets were categorized as food stalls along the roadside majorly made of makeshifts structures with a meal in most cases going for less than a dollar.
Middle class hotels included restaurants and cafeterias operating in permanent structures including those of up to three star category and those generally selling fast-foods.
“High class outlets comprised of hotels rated from four stars and above,” says the study led by Arnold Onani Juma of, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
Recently a number of high class hotels have been associated with food poisoning in Nairobi and in this case the food handlers were being examined for the bacteria E. coli.
Some strains of E. coli cause severe food poisoning, diarrhea urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia in humans.
These germs are transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.
A third of all isolates were resistant to most of available medicine and mainly from individuals working in middle class hotels in Nairobi’s Central Business District.
The study also found that younger women food handlers, than men, were more likely to carry drug resistant germs.
Such women the study says were most likely to resort to self-medication when sick. “Most isolates obtained from young females, under 30, were likely to be from those with a history of self-medication,” says the study.
Sixty seven per cent of the food-handlers revealed that they normally self-medicate when sick with a significant number owning to not completing the dosage as required.
The researchers recommend proper screening of applicants before issuance of food handlers’ certificate.
At the same time they want regulatory authorities to make sure all hotels irrespective of class observe high levels of sanitation including access to clean water, toilets and garbage disposal systems.
“Lastly, it is important to consider vaccinating food handlers against some foodborne diseases such as cholera,” recommends the authors.
At a glance
Study examined323 food handlers at Kemri for drug resistant bacteria E. coli
Participants worked from kiosks, to three and five star hotels
70 per cent had no valid medical license
33 per cent had no training in food hygiene and safety
Found high incidence of the bacteria E.Coli
Residents of Eastlands had highest volume of germs
30 per cent of germs resistant to multiple drugs
Young women had more of drug resistant germs than men
More of the study women than men self-medicate when sick
Most drug resistant germs found in CBD’s middle level hotels
Majority of the workers aged 18-30