While 99% of Kenyan households consume adequately iodized salt, only 28% of the maize and wheat flour on supermarket shelves meet the stipulated standards of micro-nutrient quantities. This was revealed during the Kenya Food Fortification Summit held on Wednesday July 4, 2018 to reflect on gains made in increasing content of essential micro-nutrients in processed staple foods.
The revelations are a result of survey undertaken by the Ministry of Health’s food safety unit focusing on six counties including Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Machakos, Uasin Gishu and Kiambu.
The findings have sparked concerns among consumers that millers could be packaging products which are not adequately fortified in line with legal requirements enforced in 2012. Kenya has prioritized four food products namely: maize and wheat flour, table salt and vegetable fats and oils to be fortified.
Samuel Ochieng from the Consumer Information Network says the problem could be compounded in rural settings where households largely consume unfortified products.
“Fortification is not just a fancy idea. It has lifelong implications for consumers and must therefore be done properly,” Ochieng said.
According to Geoffrey Imathiu from the Meru County Association of Grain Millers, small scale millers in Kenya continue to face a number of challenges including technological, financial and human capacity.
“We do not have proper equipment to do flour dosage and mixing. In addition, the cost of premixes as well as routine testing is very prohibitive to small scale millers,” Geoffrey said.
Addressing the participants of the Summit, Head of Preventive and Promotive Health Services Dr. Peter Cherutich said nutritional security and dietary diversification remained key components of the government’s ‘Big Four’ development agenda.
The Ministry of Health officials assured consumers that Kenya had intensified multi-stakeholder engagements to fully address micronutrient deficiencies in the country.
Kenya, he added, had made remarkable progress in fortification which has seen reduction of goiter incidences in Kenya to 6% compared to 35%, two decades ago.
The European Union has injected KSh. 350 Million into Kenya’s efforts to fortify staple foods and improve the health and nutritional status of the poor and vulnerable groups.
The “Strengthening the Kenya National Food Fortification Programme” is being implemented by the Ministry of Health, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and other partners drawn from both public and private sectors.
Part of the Programme’s mandate is to establish a food fortification reference laboratory at JKUAT to improve local capacity to monitor and evaluate the level of compliance of different fortified food products to the national standards.
The Project’s Coordinator, Prof. Daniel Sila said the laboratory will also be key in training millers on dosage and stability of premixes during storage.
The Summit which was organized by Ministry of Health, JKUAT and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, brought together stakeholders from government, academia, industry, development partners and consumer organizations.