Kenya is poised to further bolster its food security after Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT) recently launched a laboratory worth about Sh400 million which will be used as a centre for monitoring and analysing value added foods in the country.
The Kenya National Food Fortification Reference Laboratory unveiled on August 1 aims to enhance the country’s capacity to monitor and evaluate the level of compliance of different fortified food products to uphold national standards, according to JKUAT.
Project coordinator Daniel Sila said that the project will combine practices on food fortification with food safety aspects to ensure consumers get recommended amounts of the micro-nutrients in a safe way.
“This laboratory will be a one stop center for food samples analysis from Kenya and Africa, and it will also offer training to fortification regulators, food science post-graduate students from JKUAT as well as millers,” said Prof Sila. He also added that the main focus on the food samples will mainly be on maize, wheat, salt and vegetable oil and fat, in line with the national food fortification legislation.
The laboratory that will also serve the east African region will also be important in building capacity of regulatory authorities such as Kenya bureau of standards to effectively understand and interpret fortification results for target products.
On the research front, he said, the reference facility is equipped with an array of state of the art equipment, will see two doctorate and four masters students trained on food fortification, a move that is expected to increase the number of qualified personnel in the fortification sector.
The research facility could also bolster the implementation of the government’s food and nutrition security contained in the country’s Big Four Agenda by enhancing access to nutritious and safe foods to all Kenyans.
“Research and innovation within the food fortification arena will be catalyzed, creating a knowledge pool that will accelerate targeted interventions toward improved health to all Kenyans,” he said.
It will also help the government to monitor and evaluate the level of food fortification compliance in an effort to fight micronutrient deficiency among vulnerable groups in Kenya. The laboratory is equipped with equipment like atomic absorption — a high pressured liquid that separates, identifies, and quantifies each component in food and that can analyse many samples within a short period.