Fifteen percent of corn millers in the country produce cornmeal high in aflatoxins, exposing consumers to various health complications, a new market surveillance study has revealed.
The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) found that only 85.3 percent of millers in the country meet Kenya Bureau Standards (Kebs) requirements for maximum allowable aflatoxin levels.
According to Daniel Sila, a JKUAT professor who coordinated the market surveillance, the study also showed a disparity in terms of compliance with industry standards regarding aflatoxin levels.
“We see a regional disparity in terms of compliance with Kebs standards. In some areas like Eastern Kenya they show high levels of non-compliance compared to others like the Rift Valley. The results have been almost consistent over the last three years and have put many Kenyans at risk,” said Prof Sila.
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United Grain Millers Association (UGMA) Chairman Mr Ken Nyaga called on the government to crack down on unscrupulous corn suppliers in order to protect health of Kenyans.
“We have had cases where a miller refused corn because of the high aflatoxin content, but the corn can still be found in some of our boarding schools. It is a sad situation that we are putting Kenyans in and I urge the government to take action,” he said.
The research also shows that most of the corn and wheat millers in the country are the Do not add essential minerals and vitamins to their flour. The process, known as fortification, is mandated by the government to combat malnutrition.
Some of the products that need to be fortified are cornmeal, which should be processed with extra zinc and iron, salt with iodine, and vegetable Fats and oils with vitamin A.
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However, only 46.4 percent of corn millers and 84 percent of wheat flour millers among those surveyed meet food fortification standards. Most large corn millers (57.9%) are compliant, while small millers are only 30.4% compliant.
In Kenya, an estimated 70% of packaged cornmeal consumed in urban areas is consumed , self-made by large millers. But in most rural areas and low-income areas such as slums, the flour is sourced from small and medium-sized millers.
The results suggest that many Kenyans may be consuming food without the necessary nutrients, thereby exposing themselves to them Malnutrition, particularly for vulnerable groups such as women and children.
Researchers visited 104 corn millers across the country and collected 500 samples, which were analyzed at National Public Health and JKUAT laboratories.