13 December 2011
Tests have revealed that some brands of maize meal still do not contain the level of nutrients that the law requires, according to consumer rights NGO the National Consumer Forum.
This is despite decade-long efforts by government to get certain staple foods fortified with vitamins and other micro-nutrients, as a way of fighting malnutrition.
The NCF sent sample maize meal products from supermarket shelves for laboratory testing, and discovered that both the brands it tested fell short of legal requirements.
“We tested for seven of the main micronutrients listed in the regulations,” said NCF chairman Thami Bolani, “and found that there were insufficient amounts of most of these in the products we tested.”
These included vitamin A, riboflavin, iron and niacinamide.
Bolani said these results were most disappointing, since government had been working with industry for over a decade to ensure achievable levels of fortification in staple foods.
“This nation-wide fortification initiative was meant to address our unacceptably high levels of malnutrition, especially among children,” he said. “But clearly the implementation and enforcement strategies are not up to standard.”
The Development Bank of Southern Africa reported in 2008 that child malnutrition rates had deteriorated, with one out of five children in SA having stunted growth because of not enough nutrition. They said almost a third of women and children were anaemic, most children (and a quarter of all women) had too little vitamin A, and almost half of all children had too little zinc.
The fortification programme – which targets mainly wheat and maize – aimed to tackle these deficiencies. Maize is among the five most widely consumed food items, along with brown bread, sugar, tea and milk.
“The NCF will be continuing these tests, and taking up the findings with the stakeholders in this initiative,” said Bolani. “We call on milling companies to comply fully with the fortification regulations, and also on government to beef up their enforcement and to engage consumer groups in ensuring compliance.”
For more information:
National Consumer Forum
012 428 7071