Millers to add vitamins in wheat, maize flour
By ALLY JAMAH
Wheat and maize flour will soon be packed with extra vitamins and minerals, thanks to a new Government regulation that makes it mandatory to producers to fortify the two most widely used commodities.
Manufacturers of cooking oil will also be required to add vitamin A to their products in line with the new Food and Nutritional Policy as the Government struggles to bring down high cases of malnutrition, especially among children in rural areas.
The new regulations are set to come into force this week.
Public Health Ministry officials have revealed that fortifying cooking oil, wheat and maize flour will have maximum impact on nutrition since the majority of Kenyans consumes them regularly.
"Wheat and maize flour will be fortified with iron, folic acid, zinc and the B vitamins. This will go a long way in cutting instances of malnutrition," said Public Health Ministry’s Food Fortification Project Manager Gladys Mugambi.
Standards for the mandatory fortifications have already been prepared and are being finalised by the office of the Attorney General.
Currently, salt is fortified with iodine while some sugar producers have added vitamin A to their product voluntarily. There are increasing calls for fortification of milk as well.
According to 2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, more than 35 per cent of children below five years in Kenya are stunted due to malnutrition while 16 per cent are underweight. A significant seven per cent have wasted muscles due to poor nutrition.
According to expert estimates, Kenya may lose Sh200 billion by 2015 if the country does not tackle high rates of malnutrition among children. Majority of Kenyan children suffer from shortage of vitamin A and iron.
Mugambi revealed that the Government is seeking to remove import taxes from minerals to cut costs for the producers and prevent additional costs being passed on to consumers.
"Currently, importers of vitamins don’t pay taxes. We want the same policy to be applied for minerals to allow food producers incur minimal costs in the fortification," she said.
The official was quick to point out that the mandatory fortifications may not lead to increase in prices of the commodities.
Mugambi revealed that milk fortification will be voluntary and relevant standards will be ready within a year to guide milk producers.
Head of the Kenya Nutrition and Dieticians Institute Prof Julia Ojiambo has urged milk producers to make their products more affordable and accessible to beat malnutrition.
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