Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some manufactured foodstuff lacks sufficient nutrients, says TFDA

Tanzanians are at risk of being infected by diseases resulting from lack of enough nutrients such as vitamins and minerals in some foodstuffs which they consume,   an official from Tanzania Food and Drug Authority (TFDA) has said. TFDA’s Director of Food Safety, Raymond Wigenge confirmed in Dar es Salaam early this week that, such foodstuffs are mixed up with insufficient contents of food nutrients during production with low percentage rate, and when consumed do not build up human bodies as required. He said in an exclusive interview in his office that, foodstuff such as maize flour, wheat and vegetable oils do lack enough nutrients like Iron,  Zinc, and vitamins A, E and B12 bearing the fact that vitamins and mineral food components helps to protect human body against minor diseases. The call by TFDA has come amid study reports conducted by Tanzania Food Centre (TFC) which reveals that in Tanzania there is a deficiency of some vitamins and other minerals on human bodies which has been discovered to be lacking in some foodstuffs and edible vegetable oils. The study findings also reveals that, there is a deficiency of other minerals such as iron and zinc in these foodstuffs especially in vegetable oils which are destroyed during the process of refining them. However, he noted that, with the escalating situation, his organization has seen the need of adding natural vitamins and minerals, and has embarked effectively on National Fortification Programme (NFP) whose aim is to minimize effects associated with micro-nutrient deficiency in the country. Elaborating on the initiatives and measures to be undertaken under the programme, he said both local and foreign food producers and sellers would be examined according to the newly introduced guidelines to start effectively end of this year. Under the new guidelines, TFDA will look at the imported foodstuffs such as Maize flour, Wheat flour and vegetable oils in order to verify their contents if they conform to the level of food standards required by TFDA. He said TFDA has issued a directive to food importers to inform their manufacturers of producers of such foodstuffs to strictly adhere to the new guidelines which his organization has issued as most of their consignments have been discovered to have a shortfall of the basic nutritious contents. He noted that, the importation of bulk consignments would be directed according to the newly established guidelines which TFDA has prepared and would effectively start end of this year. These guidelines are in accordance with the types of food imported. He specified the required nutrients in these foodstuffs are such like Iron, Zinc, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Vitamin A and E . Under these specifications, vitamin A and E are for vegetable oils, Wheat and maize flour vitamin B12, Folic Acid and Zinc. He said the maximum level of iron is 50 milligrams per kilograms whereas on oil vegetables is required vitamin A and this should be in the form of Retinyl Palmitate with a maximum 28 miligrames per litre. However, he said and added that, there are no ant products to be included as these are within their mandatory and are accepted according to the guidelines prepared. To implement this, however, he clarified that the management of TFDA has met with food stakeholders including importers and have agreed to accept the consultation of the six months grace period from now as there are some importers who had already paid charges of importation for their bulk consignment for the year.  When asked why allowing the importation of foodstuffs and yet Tanzania claims to be sufficient in food supply from local producers, he said his office has no mandate to prevent traders or importers who have been licensed to trade by the government, except what they do is to regulate safety of products to consumers regardless whether are imported or locally produced. Speaking over the matter when contacted for comments, a spokesperson in the Ministry of Agriculture Richard Kasuga said that, the government has licensed some individuals to import foodstuffs to supplement any shortage that might have occurred in the country. He said in a telephone interview that, such importers are allowed to do so in case are able to pay the taxes imposed, but if the local market face acute shortage of foodstuffs, then the government waive all taxes imposed to let them import as much food as required. He clarified that, the move by the government is to curb with food insecurity likely to occur in the country at such unlikely time of the year, but it is not intending to kill the local producers, he said and added that, moreover the situation is open as the government has allowed trade liberation.Cornered for comment, industrialists who manufacture foodstuffs in the country have said that, importation of wheat flour and vegetable oil has hampered local market. An official with the AZAM Flour Mills in the city who spoke on condition of anonymity said in an exclusive interview on Wednesday this week in Dar es Salaam that, the local market is flooded with cheap imports of foodstuffs which are not standardized according to the specification required. However, he has appreciated the move by the government to oversee food fortification programme in the country would help reduce cheating. Food fortification is the practice of adding essential vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron, vitamin A, folic acid, iodine) to staple foods to improve their nutritional content. Fortification is a safe, effective way to improve public health that has been used around the world since the 1920s.

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