The predominantly American taxpayer-funded food-assistance wing of the United Nations — the World Food Program (WFP) — distributed food to Uganda contaminated with yeast, mold, bacteria, and potential carcinogens, preliminary findings from a probe revealed this week.
On May 3, the WFP issued a press release announcing the temporary halt of distribution worldwide of a fortified blended food (super Cereal) from one of its suppliers as tests continue to establish if it is linked to outbreaks of illness in Uganda, where three people died and 293 were admitted to health centers.
“This issue is unprecedented in its implications for WFP’s global supply chain as the food supplies on hold around the world amount to over 21,000 metric tons, with an estimated replacement value of US$22 million. WFP has taken extensive preventative action as the health and safety of the people we serve is our foremost concern,” the U.N. agency added.
Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the local health minister, this week said that extensive laboratory tests carried out in governmental laboratories in Uganda and separately in South Africa’s Johannesburg determined that contaminants were plaguing the food by testing patients and food samples disseminated by WFP, the Monitor reports.
“The UNBS [Uganda National Bureau of Standards lab] performed tests on 18 samples for the presence of heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticides, and bacteria … in one sample the level of [potentially cancer causing] aflatoxin B1 was slightly higher than the acceptable limit … a few samples had low levels of yeast and molds,” Dr. Aceng declared in a press statement on Wednesday.
“The Ministry of Health CPHL [Central Public Health Laboratory] also performed microbiology tests on 20 samples. The samples from a household had bacterial contamination (Bacil  cereus and salmonella ). Since the contamination was found in samples from the warehouse, the findings could be generalized,” she added.
Despite the findings, the “government is allowing WFP to resume supplying super cereals after an independent test done at the US FDA showed that WFP super cereal from all suppliers other than the Turkish supplier is safe for consumption,” the Monitor found, adding:
Super cereals comprise maize or wheat, blended with soya beans fortified with vitamins and minerals, processed into flour and supplied in 25 kg bags to vulnerable people, including pregnant women and mothers for its essential role in fighting malnutrition.
The findings came as the Ugandan government and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees are urging the international community to amass $927 million to support the nearly 1.2 million refugees living in Uganda from several conflict-ridden countries like Kenya, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), among others.
“The appeal [for funds] is complicated by the alleged misuse of previous contributions,” Voice of American (VOA) concedes.
Jens Hessemann, the senior field coordinator for the U.N. refugee agency in Uganda, declared:
Uganda is Africa’s largest refugee situation of over 1.2 million refugees and the number is growing with continued influxes to the country. And over 100 partners, U.N. and NGO partners have been supporting the Uganda government in managing this humanitarian situation and deliver life saving services. That needs to continue.
Uganda is home to the massive refugee populations of about 792,000 South Sudanese, 417,000 Congolese, and more than 35,000 Burundians, among others.
“The $927 million sought would pay for water, sanitation, food, health care, shelter and other basic needs for the refugees,” VOA notes. WHO officials have been assisting Uganda refugees for years.
The U.S. Food and Drug Authority (FDA) has also carried out further tests.