To strengthen the regulatory monitoring of compliance to food fortification standards and regulation, the European Union Funded Food Fortification Programme domiciled at JKUAT carried out a country-wide industry surveillance exercise.
The two-week exercise that commenced on July 12, 2021 targeting over 150 maize and wheat millers sought to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the fortification process while determining the key problems or challenges encountered in implementing the mandatory fortification of maize and wheat flour.
This was a follow up of a market surveillance study conducted in March 2020 where the results showed low compliance levels (<40%) to food fortification standards in both maize and wheat flour. Consequently, the current study targeted understanding the root cause of the low compliance level from industry level.
JKUAT-EU Funded Food Fortification Project Coordinator, Prof. Daniel Sila said while there is a statutory requirement for all commercial maize mills to fortify flour to the set legal standards, there is inadequate documented data on compliance and stability of the micronutrients used in fortification at both industry and market level.
The exercise included a short interview administered through a structured questionnaire and was complemented by collection of maize/wheat flour samples from the production line within a maximum period of one hour. Additionally, a sample of premix used was collected to check the quality.
“We are conducting the exercise because continuous surveillance and monitoring are necessary for effective flour fortification programme implementation,” said Prof. Sila, adding that this is what will deliver the desired health benefits of fortification to all Kenyans.
According to Prof. Sila, the finding from the exercise will be used to inform future improvement in the food fortification programme.
Most of the millers, especially the small-scale millers, that participated in the exercise lamented on the cost, availability and stability of the premix and fortification equipment.
“As millers, we always endeavor to provide our customers with the healthiest and best quality flour but sometimes our efforts are hindered by the price and stability of the premix we get in the market and the reliability of the doser we have in our mills,” said Roy Millers, Production Supervisor, Mr. Fredrick Odali.
On the stability of the fortifier, Prof. Sila said “during processing, distribution and storage, fortified foods are exposed to environmental factors such as heat, humidity, light, and air which might alter the stability of some vitamins leading to low retention capacity and consequent non-compliance to fortification standards”
While acknowledging that such industry-level surveillances are important for fortification compliance, Prof. Sila says more research should be carried out to determine the optimal storage conditions for the fortified flour and premix.
“Regulatory monitoring of the premix compliance should also be increased thus improving flour compliance with the set legal standards for micronutrients,” added Prof. Sila.
The exercise was carried out in all the regions of Kenya in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (Division of Nutrition and Dietetics, Division of Food Safety, National Public Health Laboratory) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), among other partners.