A man waits to receive food from the UN World Food Programme (WFP). File picture: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

Johannesburg – Uganda’s Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng has confirmed that according to preliminary findings, contaminated food from the World Food Programme (WFP), provided by a Turkish supplier, was behind the deaths of four people in March.

After eating super cereals contaminated with bacteria, mould and cancer-causing aflatoxin, the four succumbed in Uganda’s Napak and Amudat regions. Another 296 people were left sick in Karamoja Sub-region, which forced the government to launch an investigation, the Daily Monitor reported on Thursday.

Extensive laboratory tests were carried out at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, Government Analytical Laboratory (Wandegeya), the Ministry of Health Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL), Intertek Testing Services in Mombasa in Kenya, and separately in Johannesburg. Further tests were also carried out by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) of the USA. The tests were carried out on 18 samples searching for the presence of heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticides and bacteria.

Some of the tests carried out in Mombasa, South Africa and US FDA laboratories found the cereal contaminated with different bacteria and aflatoxins, but free of heavy metals and pesticides.

Despite Kampala’s findings, the WFP will resume supplying the 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.

The WFP and local authorities in Uganda have launched an intensive communications awareness campaign in the affected area, warning people not to consume super cereal until further notice and to observe proper hygiene and sanitation practises.

Super cereals comprise 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.

African News Agency (ANA)