High cost of food fortification machines and delay by Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to issue fortification stamps could derail Government’s plan to improve health and nutritional status for poor Kenyans.
Small-scale millers say they are facing challenges to actualise the Government’s strategy on Food, Drugs and Chemical Substances Act 2012 which was enacted in mid-2012 requiring millers dealing with food crops to add vitamins and minerals to food to prevent nutritional deficiencies enrich them by improving their nutritional value.
The fortification project is geared towards improving the general health of the population saving taxpayers billions of shillings spent annually fighting nutrient-deficiency diseases.
The law requires all packaged wheat flour, maize meal, table salt and edible fats and oils to be fortified with vitamin and minerals.
During a food fortification summit held in Nairobi small-scale millers estimated that the cost of food fortification machines currently stand between Sh700,000 and Sh4 million.
United Trade Millers Association vice chair Ken Nyaga said most small-scale millers cannot afford the cost.
“The cost of food fortification which includes acquiring and installing the machines and testing maize and wheat flour for fortification standards is a very expensive affair for most of the small milers. At the moment our members are using fortification machines from China that cost between Sh700, 000 to Sh4 million,” said Mr. Nyaga.
But surprisingly the machines are not effective and given the financial ability of small millers, they are not able to procure the advanced machines from other global markets.
During the summit, the food safety unit at the ministry of health revealed that while 99 per cent of Kenyan households consume adequately iodized salt, only 28 per cent of the maize and wheat flour on local supermarket shelves has met the stipulated standards of micronutrient quantities.
“It takes about two months for Kebs to issue a fortification mark at a cost of between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000. This is posing a big challenge to the small-scale millers,” said Nyaga.
Veronica Kirogo, head of nutrition and dietetics at the ministry of health said food fortification is among the high impact nutrition interventions identified by the government to reduce malnutrition in Kenya.
“However, there are a few hiccups in achieving food fortification which was made mandatory in 2012 for maize and wheat flours,” she Kirogo.
The Kenya Bureau of Standards directed all manufacturers of these products to ensure compliance after the World Health Organization identified iodine, iron, vitamin A and zinc deficiencies, as being among the world’s most serious health risk factors. Kenya made remarkable progress in fortification which has seen reduction of goiter incidences to six compared to 35 percent, two decades ago.