Image: Jeff Attaway via flickr
Reports have been flowing out of Kenya about how long the lines have been at the newly-opened KFC in Nairobi. People are excited. But it's not a good thing for anyone except the beneficiaries of Yum Brands' bottom line. AP reports that the reason American fast food chains like McDonald's and, until now, KFC, haven't opened in the region is because of concerns over the local supply chain.
KFC says that the launch of the just-opened restaurant took awhile because it had Kenchic implement a variety of policy and procedural changes to its supply chain, including ensuring that the chicken was kept cold "from farm to fork" and that items could be easily traced in the event of recalls, according to AP.
Looking At the Big Picture
What this point misses is that it's only because these chains are so massive, unsafe and unsustainable in the first place that they need to follow such "strict" policies when it comes to food safety. Truly strict food safety policies would place a higher priority on eliminating the risk factors that lead to food recalls, rather than creating a system that facilitates them.
As TreeHugger has written before, the food recalls in this country continue to increase in size and get more out of hand because providers are so huge, animals so confined and disease spreads easily, and because many strains of bacteria are resistant to traditional treatments.
Fried chicken is not new to East Africa. There are plenty of places to get it in any city in Kenya, including Kenchic, a local company that sells wholesale to supermarkets and restaurants as well as in the Kenchic Inn franchise, and is now the local supplier for KFC.
By KFC expanding into Kenya, the company has only an unsustainable, risk-prone food system to bring to the region, and it is sure to prompt others to follow.
David Kincheloe, the president of the U.S. group National Restaurant Consultants, said he began looking into a KFC franchise in Kenya for a different investor 2½ years ago, but that the biggest obstacle was, again, the supply chain. Kincheloe said it's logical that KFC is paving the way for more U.S. brands.
"Yum Brands is working their way into the African market," he said, referring to KFC's Louisville, Kentucky-based parent company. "Once you're able to get KFC in and you're able to work out the issues with the supply chain maybe you'll see a Long John Silver's, a Pizza Hut, a Taco Bell."
Sub-Saharan Africa is seen as one of the last untapped, still-potentially-lucrative markets in the world. Coke has already made its way in and been criticized for contributing to the spread of America's obesity epidemic overseas. KFC, McDonald's (which is rumored to be considering an entry into East Africa as well), and other chains like it can only speed that along.
More on fast food and food safety in the U.S.:
FDA Brings Clarity to Food Recalls: But Are We Any Safer?
Paving the Way for KFC's Double Down: The 5 Grossest American Fast Food Ideas (Video)
Oprah's KFC Stunt Promotes Swine Flu-Causing Factory Farms