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Aflatoxins: Poisoning Health and Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa


Monday, 30 November 2015

Aflatoxins: Poisoning Health and Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa

Aflatoxin contamination is a growing threat to trade, food and health security in sub-Saharan Africa, where smallholder farmers are challenged by food production and now climate change, researchers said. Aflatoxins are toxic and cancer causing poisons produced by certain green mould fungus that naturally occurs in the soil. The poisons have become a serious contaminant of staple foods in sub-Saharan Africa including maize, cassava, sorghum, yam, rice, groundnut and cashews. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), an international not for profit organisation based in Nigeria has led pioneering research in reducing mycotoxin contamination in Africa through rolling out innovative approaches. According to IITA researchers, exposure to mycotoxins is an important constraint to improving the health and well-being of people in Africa where high levels of aflatoxin contamination have been confirmed. Many smallholder farmers fail to prevent contamination during production and storage of their crops because they lack cost-effective ways to determine the poisons. Sub-Saharan Africa is annually losing more than 450 million dollars in trade revenue of major staples, particularly maize, and groundnuts as a result of contamination from aflatoxins, researchers told IPS. The health bill as a result of people unknowingly eating contaminated food runs into millions of dollars in a region with over burdened health facilities.

Source: Inter Press Service