Panafrican News Agency

Stakeholders urge private sector to address aflatoxins in ensuring food security in East Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA)  - With growing concerns on food security in the region, the East African Grains Council (EAGC) on Wednesday called for the private sector to play a key role to address the human and animal health threat of aflatoxin contamination and boost food security.

Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize, peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts in various parts across Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Janet Ngambalu, Regional Programme Manager at the EAGC, aflatoxins from fungi are currently widespread in the sub-region and cause contamination of staple foods such as maize milk and groundnuts in the field and during storage.

"There is a need for all stakeholders including the private sector to understand the management strategies of reducing aflatoxins in grain produce," Ngamablu told delegates on the sidelines of the African Climate risks Conference taking place in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Currently, the African Union (AU) considers  aflatoxins as one of the most pervasive manifestations on the continent's challenges with regard to food safety.

In addition, estimates by the continental body indicate that not only aflatoxins cause significant post-harvest losses across the continent, reducing the availability of food as a major challenge to Africa's food safety endeavours, but also this phenomenon represents a hindrance to intra-African trade, and threatens the competitiveness of African agricultural products on the world market. 

So far, East African Community (EAC) member states announced last year plans to develop a policy framework to address the human and animal health threat of aflatoxin contamination and boost food security.

Aflatoxins from fungi are widespread in the region and cause contamination of staple foodsin the field and during storage.

Commenting on these efforts, Ngambalu stressed the need for all stakeholders in the value chain, including producers, to grow safe food, transporters to keep food safe and processors in the business community to produce safe and nutritious products to enable consumers to access safe and quality food.

Estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that aflatoxin can contaminate food crops and pose a serious health threat to humans and livestock.

Pre-harvest contamination with aflatoxins is mainly limited to maize, cottonseed, peanuts and tree nuts while post-harvest contamination can be found in a variety of other crops such as coffee, rice and spices, the WHO said.

Estimates by the UN agency show that improper storage under conditions that favour mould growth (warm and humid storage environments) can typically lead to levels of contamination much higher than those found in the field.

-0- PANA TWA/AR 9Oct2019