The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPI) has faulted poor market surveillance and standards enforcement of commercially-sold premixed cereals (CPC) for poor nutritional quality of baby feeds from six to 24 months of age in the country.
In its report titled Nutrient and Mycotoxin Content of Commercially-Sold Premixed Infant Cereals in Malawi, IFPRI reveals that nutritional quality of 94 samples of locally-made and imported commercial premixed cereals being sold in Malawi is highly variable and often inadequate for infant and young child feeding, particularly with respect to fat, protein, and zinc content.
A sample of CPCs available in markets in central and southern Malawi were tested for macronutrients, iron, and zinc as well as for the presence of aflatoxins and fumonisin where it was discovered that the samples largely met moisture, ash, and iron standards set by the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS), but only 35, 56, and 39 percent of samples were compliant with Malawi standards for zinc, protein, and fat, respectively.
The research also found that most locally-made products had aflatoxin and fumonisin levels that exceeded national and international maximum allowable levels for infant foods.
The results showed that labelled values deviated significantly from test results for all nutrients except protein and zinc.
According to the report, the producers studied do not provide accurate information about the nutrient content of their products, although this appears to be due to issues with nutrient content of raw materials, formulation or infrequent testing of products rather than any intent to overstate nutritional claims.
“Access to CPCs of high and uniform quality is hampered by poor market surveillance and standards enforcement, plus the cost of independent testing and other quality control measures. The introduction and enforcement of better standards for quality control and labelling of commercial complementary foods in Malawi could serve as a model for the other low- and middle- income countries facing similar issues,” reads the report in part.
The development comes against widespread child malnutrition persisting in Malawi, with an estimated 37 percent of children under five classified as stunted in their growth in 2015/16, according to the National Statistical Office (NSO).
A few international and national standards have been set to protect the integrity and quality of CPCs.