East Africa to develop policy on aflatoxin to boost food security and safety

KENYA – The East African Community member (EAC) states have agreed on plans to develop a policy framework to address the human and animal health threat of aflatoxin contamination and boost food security, a NewTimes report has revealed.

The economic bloc aims to address food nutrition, security and safety issues in regard to animal, human and plant health.

According to Christophe Bazivamo, Deputy Secretary General of the EAC, aflatoxins from fungi are widespread in the region and cause contamination of staple foods such as maize milk and groundnuts in the field and during storage.

“The EAC partner states will therefore develop policies to aid in the formulation and implementation of intervention programs to curb the spread of aflatoxins,” said Bazivamo.

According to him, the region needs to create awareness and sensitise high level policy makers and other key stakeholders on the necessary policy action and interventions to mitigate impacts of aflatoxin with an overall goal to eliminate aflatoxin threat.

Meanwhile in Tanzania, BASF and USDA’s Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) have partnered to host stakeholders workshop in aflatoxin management to discuss possible solutions for aflatoxin mitigation in the country.

The workshop aims to help advance Tanzania’s national aflatoxin mitigation strategy.

International rejects

Export products such as agricultural commodities also from the continent have been blocked from some export destinations such as the European Union on trade-related impacts of aflatoxin.

Bazivamo said the control of aflatoxin will enable the EAC to expand intra-regional trade in the agricultural products.

He urged the member states to focus on preventive measures given that disposal of aflatoxin-contaminated food can be a costly and time consuming affair.

Mwangi Kiunjuri, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture noted that aflatoxins contaminate about 25% of agricultural products in Kenya and the country has experienced multiple aflatoxicosis outbreaks in recent years, often resulting in fatalities.

Aflatoxins can cause fatal liver toxicity at high dosage levels while chronic exposure is associated with a range of health problems including liver cancer, child stunting, low birth weight and immune suppression.

Control measures include good management practices in crop and animal production, drying, handling and storage.

Recently, UK rejected Nigeria’s vegetables and other edibles due to failure to meet up with international procedures.

This came 10 months after some consignment of yam exported to the United States from Nigeria, were also rejected due to poor quality.

However, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) argued that the produce including pumpkin leaf, waterleaf, bitter leaf, local pear, garden eggs, wrapping leaf and others were rejected on the ground that they were not accompanied with phytosanitary certificate and not due to poor quality.

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