In Kenya, micronutrient deficiencies remain a public health challenge with deficiencies in iron, vitamin A, folate, and zinc reported. Food fortification is a cost-effective intervention to reduce micronutrient deficiencies with the potential to reach a large population. Fortification of packaged maize flour in Kenya is mandatory as per the law passed in 2012. In order to assess fortification compliance, regular market surveillance is necessary. The objective of this work was to determine the level of compliance of commercially milled maize flour brands in Kenya to national set food fortification standards.
Five hundred and ninety seven (597) maize flour samples representing diverse brands were randomly collected from 10 counties and sorted to remove duplicate samples with similar batch numbers yielding 312 analytical samples. The samples were analyzed to determine zinc and iron content using Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy. Vitamins were determined using HPLC by isocratic elution for vitamin A and gradient elution for the B vitamins. Compliance is indicated by samples that meet the national food fortification standards for any two micronutrients among iron, zinc and vitamin A.
From the analysis, 33.3%, 33.9% and 29.9% of the samples complied with national fortification standard for iron, zinc, and vitamin A, respectively. The compliance levels for the B vitamins ranged from 9.7% for folic acid to 84.4% for vitamin B1. Overall, compliance to the national food fortification standards was 28% for all the maize flour samples. We conclude that the flours had low compliance levels to the national food fortification standards for maize flour despite the spirited efforts by both government and the private sector players. This scenario is worrying as it indicates that consumers are not getting the desired nutritional benefits from food fortification.
Francis Aila is currently a PhD student in Food Science and Nutrition specializing in Food Fortification with a focus on bioavailability of minerals from fortified foods. He has over 15 years in the field of nutrition having worked with the ministry of health, Kenya. He has publications in food safety in peer reviewed journals from his MSc work and nutrition programming from his work at the ministry of health. He has participated in conferences focusing on health and nutrition in Africa.