The World Food Programme (WFP) has temporarily halted the distribution worldwide of a fortified blended food from one of its suppliers as tests continue to establish whether it is linked to outbreaks of illness in Uganda.
Super Cereal comprises maize or wheat blended with soya beans, fortified with vitamins and minerals, processed into flour and supplied in 25-kg bags as a critical part of WFP’s efforts to prevent malnutrition, especially among women and children.
But the product has been listed as a possible cause or carrier of contamination leading to the death of three people and hospitalization of close to 300 others in the Karamoja region in March and April.
According to a statement by the World Food Programme, preliminary investigations have failed to conclusively find what caused the illness. To date, more than 2,400 food-related laboratory tests have been conducted – including for mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticides and microbial contaminants but the root cause of the problem has not yet been established.
In the aftermath of the incident, WFP halted the distribution of the food first in Karamoja and then across Uganda and embarked on campaigns to urge people in Karamoja with remaining stocks to return them.
Last month, WFP halted the distribution globally of all products from the supplier in question and put on hold all Super Cereal stocks in WFP operations in 25 countries.
In a further precautionary move, WFP has now ordered all stocks of Super Cereal from the same supplier should be secured in WFP warehouses and storage areas belonging to partners as it continues to test samples from the stock to confirm or rule out any of the preliminary conclusions.
The food supplies on hold around the world amount to over 21,000 metric tons, with an estimated replacement value of USD 22 million.
“WFP has taken extensive preventative action as the health and safety of the people we serve is our foremost concern,” the statement reads.