Camel milk is an important commodity in the arid and semi-arid lands where it forms their basic diet, a major source of income and serves significant cultural function to the pastoralists. However, camel milk production is faced with challenges that contributes to the camel milk post-harvest losses due to poor quality and safety. This study aimed at determining the risk factors that may contribute to camel milk quality losses along the Isiolo camel milk value chain. The survey data was collected through structured questionnaire and key informant interview while the microbiological counts data were determined using ISO methods. There was poor hygiene at the herd level where high Staphylococcus aureus count was found on the camel udder swab, milkers’ hand swab, and milking container which recorded counts of 1.4×104 cfu/cm2, 1.5×104 cfu/cm2, and 5.9×103 cfu/ml, respectively. In the other chain nodes, the hygiene was significantly (p<0.05) different with milk hands of retailers around Isiolo town, at the cooling hub/bulking milk and milk retailers in Nairobi Eastleigh area recording S. aureus counts of 4.9×103, 1.3×104, and 3.7×103 cfu/cm2, respectively. There was problem accessing adequate potable water at the herd level than at the other chain nodes. The plastic milk containers were not disinfected with any chemical sanitizes after washing, however the smoke fumigated them. Camel disease management was poor. Both sick and health camels were milked and the milk bulked together. This therefore indicates that hygiene could be one of the most important contributor to milk deterioration along the chain. Improvement of hygiene along the Isiolo camel milk value chain can help reduce milk post-harvest losses.
Key words: Camel milk, handling practices, safety, risk factors, post-harvest losses, Isiolo.
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