Don’t panic. Taking eight to 10 milligrams of copper a day is good for you. In fact, it’s the minimum daily requirement for adults.
Gladys Mugambi, head nutritionist in the Health ministry, said on Friday that a tiny amount of copper is essential.
Much more than consumed that time is risky.
She spoke to the Star as thousands of tonnes of sugar were being seized around the country, much of it contraband, some of it reported to be contaminated with high levels of copper and lead.
Some has been found to be safe.
Sugar is being sampled at random and tested for excessive metals and organic contaminants.
The amounts involved in this are minuscule. For perspective, one teaspoon of sugar equals about 4,200mg.
Trace elements are found everywhere in the environment and in food.
Even trace amounts of lead are allowed in milk — for instance, the maximum in the EU is 0.2mg per kilo of raw milk.
More lead is well known to be dangerous and cause grave mental and physical impairment. It’s difficult to detect, though, until the levels are high. Less is known about copper.
“Even if somebody takes five spoons of sugar [containing some copper] per day and is already consuming copper from other sources such as meat, we are unlikely to go beyond 10mg per day,” Mugambi said.
Taking water, exercising, sweating and taking zinc all help regulate copper levels. She said Kenyans are generally deficient in zinc and should take more.
“Copper is required in the diet. Without it, there’s a problem and with too much, there’s a problem,” Mugambi said.
Copper is an essential trace mineral necessary for survival. It is found in all tissues and plays a role in producing red blood cells, maintaining blood vessels, the nervous system and the immune system. It helps in energy production, among others.
On Thursday, Kenya Bureau of Standards managing director Charles Ongwae told the National Assembly Committee on Trade and Industry that lab tests on some impounded sugar contained high amounts of copper, 20.7 per cent milligrams per kilogramme, against the recommended two milligrams per kg of sugar.
He said Kebs found no mercury, which Interior CS Fred Matiang’i had said was present.
Dr Richard Oduor, a senior lecturer in biochemistry and biotechnology at Kenyatta University, on Friday also told the Star that a limited amount of copper in food is essential. Long-term consumption of high levels poses health risks.
Copper toxicity can cause liver failure, brain damage and male infertility if ingested for a long period of time.
Oduor explained that too much copper over time accumulates in soft tissues, including the liver, brain, thyroid, ovaries, skin, joints and nervous system. This is called copper toxicity.
“This poisons or disrupts the liver’s ability to do its normal function of cleaning the body,” he said. It also disturbs mental functions, irritates the nervous system, agitates and stimulates the adrenal glands.
Copper deficiency can cause anaemia, fatigue, confusion, irritability, depression, vitamin B12 deficiency and low blood levels.
Dr Kepha Ombacho, the director of public health, on Friday confirmed that the ministry is analysing and testing sugar and food products countrywide to ensure they are fit for human consumption.
On Monday the ministry issued a memo requiring random sampling and testing of all food products to ascertain their safety.
Public officers were ordered to intensify food safety surveillance.
“Subject all sugar to sampling, testing and seize any of the products which do not meet the legal provisions of Food, Drugs and Chemical Substances Act, Chapter 254 of the Kenyan Law,” the memo said.
Ombacho said sugar meant for human consumption must meet the sugar standards by Kebs. These include KS/EAS 5:2009 for refined sugar, KS/EAS 16:2010 for plantation white sugar and KS/EAS 749:2010 for brown sugar.
Nutritionist Mugambi said that in Kenya there is very deficiency of zinc, which regulates copper levels.
“We encourage Kenyans to eat foods rich in zinc because when the two minerals are together, you do not have to be worried,” she said.
Courtesy: The Star
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