Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health, thus the government is currently implementing a bio-control technology Aflasafe to effectively reduce contamination of the maize grains in the field.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya says the government will ensure safe food trade practices in a manner consistent with World Trade Organization sanitary and phytosanitary measures and other international requirements to safeguard consumers.
Speaking during a miller’s workshop in Nairobi, Munya who was represented by the Chief Administrative Secretary, State department of livestock Lawrence Omuhaka said, “Food processing is a critical stage in the food system. Just as in food production and the Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) that farmers have to adhere to, processors have to adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).”
Munya noted that the biggest threat to food grains and their products is contamination by aflatoxins and this is a big concern not only at consumer level but critical at all stages of the food system from production, transportation, processing, retailing and consumption.
The prevalence of aflatoxins in maize in various regions of the country, including low-risk areas, the CS noted, underscores the importance of raising awareness of the chances and consequences of chronic exposure to the toxin among producers, consumers, traders, and vendors.
“It is upon all stakeholders at these levels to adhere to the laid down rules and regulations that govern the food system in the country and be in constant contact with Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and the Ministry of Health” he said.
The CS lauded the meeting discussion which was on Food Safety, Food Fortification, Mycotoxins Management and Good Manufacturing Practices and Hygiene saying they are critical in ensuring that the food that Kenyans consume is not only enough but is safe and nutritious.
“Food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick,” said Munya.
During the meeting, Chairman of the United Grain Millers Association (UGMA) Kennedy Nyaga called upon government to regulate the milling industry in order to enhance food safety as well as offer fair competition.
UGMA which is made up of small scale millers raised concern over the mushrooming of mills in the market that are not complying with the law.
“Currently, there are 140 small-scale millers under the association and the recent high increase of upcoming milling companies has seen some of them not meeting the required standards including fortification, since even the location of the premises selling the flour to the market leaves a lot to be desired ” Nyaga said
He explained that for one to start milling flour, they will need approval and licensing from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBs), which checks for fortification, standardization and aflatoxin which they started recently.
A single permit license, three health licenses from the Public Health department (for employees, premises and food handling) and another license for fire from the County Government is also needed.
“Many of the upcoming millers are taking short cuts to get these licenses. There should be a body to regulate millers, don’t forget this is food and if it is not regulated, there is no guarantee of getting safe food,” he said.
Nyaga asked the Government to come up with a body to regulate the sector and ensure safety and fair competition in the market.
Peter Kahenya, a researcher from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) said that a survey carried out in October and November last year on flour fortification showed that only 68 percent of small-scale farmers in the country are fortifying their flour
“This means that 32 percent are not fortifying their flour which is mandatory for all flour millers, but even so out of the 68 percent who are doing so, only 28 percent are doing it correctly,” he said
Most Small and Medium Scale millers from in Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Nakuru, Meru, Bomet, Kericho and Nairobi Counties and where the study was carried, Kahenya explained, face both technical and financial challenges in implementing fortification.
Leila Akinyi, Deputy Head of Nutrition from the Ministry of Health attributed the low compliance rate to the lack of proper infrastructure to do fortification.
She said a fortification machine costs between Sh500, 000 to Sh1 million and this is too expensive for some of the small-scale millers, hence the low uptake.
“We are working with JKUAT to fabricate a fortification machine that will be cheaper and affordable to the millers,” she said.
Food fortification or enrichment according to the Ministry of Agriculture is the process of adding essential trace elements and vitamins to food. This is the government’s effort to reduce the number of people with dietary deficiencies within the population. Some fortification elements include vitamin A, vitamin D, Iodine, Folic acid and Iron.