The Nakuru County government has launched an initiative to monitor manufacturers and Food Business Operators (FBOs) and ensure that designated foodstuffs from the outlets are fortified with mandatory levels of nutrients.
Chief Officer Public Health Samuel King’ori, said that the county government will set up a food analysis laboratory at the Nakuru Level 5 Hospital, adding that more 30 Public Health Officers have been trained on food fortification and safety guidelines to ensure compliance with food safety practices in the County.
While speaking in his office at the County headquarters the Chief Officer put on notice manufacturers who were deceiving consumers by labeling their products as fortified and containing extra nutrients, yet they are not.
Food fortification is included in the Central government’s National Food Security and Nutrition Policy as an important strategy for addressing national food and nutrition security and micronutrient deficiency also known as hidden hunger.
The policy makes it mandatory for food manufacturers in Kenya to fortify salt with iodine, maize and wheat flours with B vitamins, iron, folic acid and zinc, oils, fats and sugar with vitamin A.
Mr King’ori said the department’s monitoring and surveillance team will be making random and impromptu visits to manufacturers and Food Business Operators (FBOs) where collected food samples will be forwarded to the National Public Health Laboratory for analysis should need arise.
“Consumers will now be assured of healthy consumption through efforts the County is putting in place to promote awareness on importance of fortified food in ensuring good nutrition.
This approach has been shown to increase access to micronutrients of public health significance without the need for drastic changes in consumption patterns,” he stated.
He said the drive incorporates empowering Food Business Operators to provide and promote safe food trade practices and food safety.
According to Country Director for Global Alliance in Kenya (GAIN) Leah Kagwara, the process of adding vitamins and minerals to staple foods has been observed as a cost-effective strategy to addressing micronutrient malnutrition in developing countries.
“This is as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation to fortify foods in third world countries where diseases due to lack of pertinent nutrients are high compared to industrialized nations.
Lack of sufficient amount of vitamin A and iron has the greatest impact on public health according to the global health body,” offered Ms Kagwara.
A survey conducted by Ministry of Health’s food safety last year revealed that a wide range of maize and wheat flour on sale in the country do not have the mandatory levels of nutrients.
“Only 28 per cent of maize and wheat flour in supermarkets meet the stipulated standards of micro-nutrient quantities,” stated the study.
According to the Ministry’s findings, of the 177 maize flour samples, only five per cent showed compliance of both iron and Vitamin A while a 12 per cent showed compliance of both zinc and iron.
Ninety-seven per cent of the 156 wheat samples showed compliance for total iron while 65 per cent did not meet the zinc threshold requirement.
According to the World Food Programme although Kenya enacted fortification of all milled flours, more than 70 percent of the population purchases flour through small and medium scale mills who do not fortify their food products.
By Jane Ngugi