KEBS Raises Eyebrows over a Miraa Chewing Gum Introduced in the Market

Miraa Chewing Gum

Miraa chewers can now go about their businesses as usual from wherever they are without being seen publicly with a bundle of the stimulant, a packet of peanuts, a bottle of water and chewing gum. One Maore Ithula, CEO at Rek East Africa Ltd, was struck with the idea of miraa consumption a chew away, which bore the idea of manufacturing a gum made from Miraa.

The gum, selling under the brand name, Marqan contains gum base, oils, sugars, miraa, gum Arabica and aspartame as its ingredients, manufactured by Rek East Africa Limited and is to be sold strictly to buyers above 18. To ensure that the product was of good quality, the invention was guided by technical experts at the food division of the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI).

Excited that the gum was first of its kind to make it into the market, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) Head of Quality Assurance and Inspection boss Bernard Nguyo slapped Ithua with news that his product had not been issued a standardisation mark, allegedly for failing to follow the correct legal procedure to have the new product registered.

“Products that have miraa as ingredients are classified as psychotropic substance, whose manufacture and sale is controlled under the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act,” said Bernard.

However, according to Ithua, Miraa is a cash crop that is exported which means its recognised by the government and that Marqan chewing gum was incubated and developed in the food technology division of Kirdi and was also linked to Kebs for certification. Despite the safety concerns raised by KEBS, the chewing gum is already retailing in Eastleigh, Nairobi, one of the big markets of miraa in the country.

“Our invention revolutionises the habit of chewing miraa, making it easier, hygienic and user friendly,” Ithua noted.

Miraa Traders Association has welcomed the new product,  as it offers another income avenue for farmers following travel ban due to COVID-19 pandemic.