WFP food was contaminated – probe

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng

Kampala- Tests carried out on patients and food (super cereals) samples distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP) found traces of yeast, mould, bacterial contamination and the potential cancer causing aflatoxin, according to preliminary findings
The development follows food poisoning that occurred in Karamoja Sub-region in March which left 296 people sick and four dead in Napak and Amudat districts, forcing government to undertake various investigations into the incident.

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, said extensive laboratory tests have been carried out at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, Government Analytical Laboratory (Wandegeya), Ministry of Health Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL), Intertek Testing Services in Mombasa, and separately in Johannesburg.

Further tests were also carried out by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) of USA.
“The UNBS performed tests on 18 samples, for presence of heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticides and bacteria…in one sample the level of aflatoxin B1 was slightly higher than the acceptable limit…a few samples had low levels of yeast and moulds,” Dr Aceng said in a press statement issued yesterday.

Findings
The Government Analytical Laboratory performed similar tests on 20 samples and only one sample had a slightly high level of aflatoxin B1 with no significant finding, according to Dr Aceng.

“The Ministry of Health CPHL also performed microbiology tests on 20 samples. The samples from a household had bacterial contamination (Bacil [2] cereus and salmonella [1]). Since the contamination was found in samples from the warehouse, the findings could be generalised,” she added.

Some of the tests carried out in Mombasa (Kenya) South Africa and US FDA laboratories also found contaminated with different bacteria and aflatoxins but free of heavy metals and pesticides

However, government is allowing WFP to resume supplying super cereals after an independent test done at the US FDA showed that WFP super cereal from all suppliers other than the Turkish supplier is safe for consumption.

Super cereals comprises maize or wheat, blended with soya beans fortified with vitamins and minerals, processed into a flour and supplied in 25 kg bags to vulnerable people, including pregnant women and mothers for its essential role in fighting malnutrition.

WFP and local authorities have since instituted an intensive communications campaign in the affected areas, advising people not to consume super cereal until further notice.

Communities were also advised to observe proper hygiene and sanitation, for example through handwashing with soap and drinking boiled water.

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