African governments have been urged to strengthen agricultural systems to ensure that farmers grow crops that are free from Aflatoxin contamination.
The Program Manager of the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) Dr. Amare Ayalew hailed Kenya for withdrawing peanut butter that was suspected to have been contaminated with the life threatening toxin from shops.
In an interview on the sidelines of the Continental Training on the Malabo Declaration Biennial Review Reporting Tools workshop in Accra, Ghana, Dr. Amare urged countries to ensure there are enough surveillance measures by countries to help protect the public from consuming food that could be contaminated with the aflatoxin.
Saying that groundnuts are the most susceptible to aflatoxin contamination compared to other crops, Dr. Amare at the same time warned that the impact from contamination is enormous since “one contaminated kennel, can contaminate over 48 kilograms of groundnuts.
He notes that contamination in groundnuts occurs heterogeneously through the produce, “it is not homogenous like other farm produce hence the need to select those that appear shriveled or showing signs of contamination to prevent them from contaminating the rest of the produce,” says Dr. Amare.
He says efforts to reduce aflatoxin poisoning are bearing fruit, “The recall move by the Kenyan government shows that, governments are now enforcing the recall program for food that is contaminated with aflatoxin and in the process protecting the consumers from consuming contaminated food stuff.”
Dr. Amare says while aflatoxin contamination is a complex issue, governments could work towards strengthening systems and making technology available to farmers and processors to help prevent contamination before it happens.
Through contracting farmers, he notes, commercial entities could help the farmers employ agronomy practices that help to prevent contamination at farm level and also through the value chain.
“The best way to go about the issue is by protecting the groundnuts from conditions that make it possible for the produce to get contaminated,” he says and adds, “in one company rejection levels have dropped from 50% to 4% which is a major success that requires that other entities can learn from this one entity as a best practice,” he said.
Aflatoxin is known to cause death once it is ingested by both humans and animals. It is a toxin known to cause liver cancer among those that feed on food contaminated with the toxin.
The Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) is a collaboration that aims to protect crops, livestock, and people from the effects of aflatoxins. By combating these toxins, PACA aims to contribute to improving food security, health, and trade across the African continent.