Have you noticed something weighty about your loaf of bread lately?
A few years ago, it was quite a feat to devour a whole loaf in one sitting.
But today, even those not blessed with the best of appetites find several slices not too much of a task.
It is not just change of appetites but a loaf was actually bigger several years ago when the average size was 500 grammes and above.
This went on for some time until they were caught red-handed by weight and measures inspectors.
Dropped 100 grammes
Cornered, they made it official and decided to start packing 400 grammes, dropping 100 grammes in one swoop, for the same amount of money.
And now, they are at it again. They are now quietly taking away another slice from your bread.
An independent test conducted by the Nation this week on various consumer products — including packed sugar, wheat and maize flour, rice, tea leaves, spaghetti and salt — revealed that bread is the single commodity that has most offenders, with many brands failing the weight and measures test.
We bought samples of the household goods from various outlets in Nairobi and neighbouring Kajiado counties, among them Carrefour supermarkets and estate shops, and put them on the digital weighing scale.
On our shopping list was Ajab wheat flour, Exe Chapati, Exe Mandazi, Jogoo, Kifaru and Soko maize meal, Santa Lucia and Sister spaghetti.
For sugar, we bought Nutrameal, Mara and Kabras brands.
For bread, we sampled Broadways, Citi Loaf, Supa Loaf, Butter Toast, Festive Bread, BB Bread, Kenblest and Destiny Best brands.
Test results shocking
Some of the results of the tests were shocking.
Apart from Kifaru maize flour, our investigation revealed that most packers of sugar, tea leaves, spaghetti, salt, wheat and maize meal sampled passed the tests — with some even having a few grammes above set weight.
But the biggest offenders were found among the bread makers, with some bakers taking away as high as 135 grammes from the 600 to 800-gramme loaves, to compensate the rising costs of production, after they were unable to increase prices.
The smaller sizes of between 200 and 400 grammes were also not spared, with some bakers taking away up to 35 grammes, which translates to about one slice on average from every packet.
Apart from Butter Toast brand and those baked in supermarkets, it was not easy to find any baker who had not taken away some gramme from their loaf (go to www.nation.africa and watch video of the results).
Increased retail prices
Early in the month, a number of bakers increased their retail prices by at least Sh5 to cushion them against a spike in wheat costs, but consumers voted with their feet and this week, some started revising their prices downwards.
“Usually in such circumstances, we drop a slice or two to survive,” a distributor of a reputable bread manufacturing company said as he serviced a shop in Ngong.
He requested not to be named to protect his job with the company.
The Department of Weights and Measures in the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development says after devolution, its powers were stripped and handed over to counties, which are now mandated to enforce the weights and measures law.
Mr Raphael Mugo, the acting boss at the Department of Weights and Measures, told the Nation that his department is now underfunded and is in no position to monitor what is happening at the market place.
Enforcement left to counties
Mr Mugo said that since devolution, the actual enforcement work was transferred to counties, and the department has only been left with policy making as its core mandate.
“Inspection went to the counties and this meant that the national office was weakened,” Mr Mugo told the Nation in a phone interview.
“We do not have enough officers and we also do not have vehicles to carry out inspections. Counties need to up their game in this respect. Until they say they are unable to do that job, there is very little we can do.”
He added: “When bread was 500 grammes, bakers complained that it was too big and reduced it, but now they are even unable to meet the 400 grammes,” he said.
So, today, as you buy your loaf, look at it keenly, and if in doubt, weigh it and remember to let us know what you find.