KAMPALA – The government of Uganda and World food programme have suspended distributions of food in the country by Turkish Cereal supplier following the food poisoning that occurred in Karamoja in March 2019.
The food poisoning from the food supplied by WFP according to a statement from the ministry of health left four people dead and another 296 people hospitalised.
Dr Jane Ruth Achieng, the ministry of health said since the incident happened, the government of Uganda undertook undertaking a number of investigations on the food and patients involved.
She explained that the investigations are being led by a multi-Sectoral task force comprising ministry of health, WHO, the UN WFP, OPM [Karamoja affairs], Ministry of internal affairs, Government analytical laboratory, UNBS and US-based Centres for Disease control and prevention [CDC] chaired by the acting director General Health services in Uganda.
She said that although it was established that about 293 people who were hospitalised had eaten porridge from a single batch of specially fortified food called Super cereal aka CSB+, the laboratory findings so far have not explicitly pinpointed to the causative agent.
She said the ministry of health CPHL performed microbiology tests on 20 samples; three samples from a household had bacterial contamination [Bacillus cereus  and salmonella  but that since the contamination was not found in samples from the warehouse, the finding could not be generalised.
She revealed that similar tests were performed by Intertek Mombasa and Soth Africa, three samples tested in Mombasa laboratory had coliforms [ a broad class of bacteria found in our environment, including feaces of man and other warm-blooded animals].
“And from the South Africa lab, one sample failed the aflatoxin B1 test. Three samples had bacterial contamination [Bacillus cereus]and three samples had coliforms,” a statement from the ministry of health signed by Dr Achieng titled; Update on Food poisoning investigations in Karamoja region dated 27 May, reads in part.
About Super Cereal
Super cereal comprises maize or wheat, blended with Soya beans, fortified with vitamins and minerals, processed into flour and supplied in 25kg bags.
Records indicate that for years it has been safely distributed by WFP and other humanitarian agency globally to millions of vulnerable people, including pregnant women and nursing mothers and has played an important role in fighting malnutrition.
A statement from ministry of health dated 27 May, signed by the minister Dr Achieng says this food according to WFP came from a single Turkish supplier and that since the incident WFP has suspended Super Cereal distributions from the Turkish supplier both locally and internationally pending the findings from investigations.
“Even the food that had already been distributed to families was recalled and safely stored and guarded,” added a statement signed by Dr Achieng.
She said the government has also “Suspended distributions of Super Cereal in Uganda regardless of the supplier and the government has partnered with WFP to launch extensive communications campaigns across Uganda to ensure people stop eating Super Cereal and returned product,”
The statement says that an independent test done at the US Food Drug Authority has also shown that WFP Super Cereal from all suppliers other than the Turkish supplier is safe for consumption and that as a result government has allowed WFP to resume Super Cereal distribution from other suppliers to meet humanitarian needs.
“Government is committed to the investigations integrity, impartiality and accountability are delivering clear answers to the population,” reads the statement in part.