At least 40 containers of substandard maize flour were confiscated at the Nimule border, said the Chief Executive Officer of the South Sudan Bureau of Standards, Mary Gordon.
Addressing the media yesterday in Juba during the commemoration of World Meteorology Day, Gordon said a number of tested maize flours from Uganda were confirmed to be substandard.
“We have tested a lot of maize containers, and we found through measurements that there are some levels of aflatoxins that are higher than normal limits,” she said, adding, “We stopped them from moving, and we are doing further investigations.”
She said the test the Bureau of Standards had conducted was preliminary, and they are awaiting results from another test to get conclusive information.
“After our test, we have stopped the 40 containers, which is equivalent to 150 metric tonnes, and the investigation will be conducted after the second test for the government to prove that the food is not safe,” she said, adding this was just a fraction of the suspected contaminated maize as some consignments had already arrived in the country.
“We are waiting for the final directives from the high authority while the containers remain at the border,” she stressed.
The official said they have embarked on regular testing of food coming from Uganda due to its high levels of aflatoxin substances.
Also, Gordon said they destroyed more than 200 metric tonnes of food at the border point of Nimule last month, which did not meet the standards.
“We can’t stop importing food from Uganda since we are not producing, but we will continue with the testing so that citizens will consume standard food.”
“The authorities have discovered that about 60 per cent of the food that citizens consume that comes from Uganda, especially wheat and maize, has aflatoxin substances that cause health problems for humans,” she added.
She called on the business people to stop importing substandard food into the country.
She noted that most of the food enters the country at night since their staff do not work at night.
Appeal For Support
In February, the South Sudan Bureau of Standards appealed for help to build capacity and ensure proper screening of consumable goods entering the country through Uganda.
“We are aware of the report that Ugandan maize poses a cancer risk, and we are working hard to ensure proper border screening,” Gordon said.
Gordon’s plea came after the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) based in Kampala revealed that Ugandan maize, sorghum, and groundnuts contained 10 times or higher concentrations of aflatoxin than the safety threshold recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Dr. Godfrey Asea from the National Crops Resources Research Institute said that Uganda’s maize posed a cancer risk to consumers due to the high concentration of aflatoxin. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aflatoxin is a fungal toxin that, when consumed in large amounts, can cause cancer, organ damage, and death.
“Uganda produces about five million metric tons of grain per year, and from the research, samples of these grains contain up to 100 parts per billion of aflatoxins, which is higher than that recommended by the WHO (10 parts per billion),” Dr. Asea explained in an interview.