NCPB ramps up fight against aflatoxin contamination in Kenya, launches additional testing laboratories

KENYA – Kenya’s National Cereals and Produce Board has commissioned five additional aflatoxin testing laboratories at their facilities in Meru, Eldoret, Machakos, Kitale and Nakuru.

This brings to six the number of aflatoxin testing laboratories in its network from the initial one which was located in the country’s capital Nairobi.

According to reports by Daily Nation, the move is aimed to enable farmers and value chain actors who include farmers, traders, millers, among other stakeholders along the grains and pulses value chain to test aflatoxin levels at an affordable cost and ensure households are not exposed to toxic cereals.

“Farmers and those in the food value chain like traders and agro-processors can now access the quality testing services,” NCPB Managing Director Joseph Kimote said.

 NCPB says the equipment installed uses the Elisa Test method and can test all mycotoxins that exist in grain and other foods.

The board has contracted Sorela Suppliers (Ltd), to install the laboratory testing kits and train the Quality Control Officers, who will man the laboratories.

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“Farmers and those in the food value chain like traders and agro-processors can now access the quality testing services.”

NCPB Managing Director – Joseph Kimote

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and millers have in the recent past raised concerns over high level of aflatoxin in maize, the country’s staple food.

A processor in the country is required to have a machine for testing aflatoxin as a condition for guaranteeing quality of flour. One such gadget goes for at least Ksh1 million (US$8,900).

Making it affordable to the general public and all stakeholderin the value chain, NCPB has availed the services to be used at a charged fee of Ksh. 1,740 (US$15m), VAT inclusive per sample.

“Having experienced first-hand the ramifications of procuring aflatoxin maize, in terms destruction of food and loss of funds, we want to prevent a recurrence of these incidences and ensure that the Kenyan consumer has access to clean and safe food for consumption,” Mr. Kimote said.

The allowable aflatoxin level in maize in Kenya is 10 per billion parts. Levels above that are considered poisonous.

KEBS MD Bernard Njiraini and technical adviser Martin Masibo say poor storage and heavy rains contribute to high aflatoxin levels in maize.

“We carry out regular inspections and test for aflatoxin to ensure flour and other products meet the recommended standards. Unfortunately, some companies flout the guidelines,” Mr Masibo said.

Millers are reluctant to buy cereals with aflatoxin levels of 10 and above but farmers want the limit lowered to 20 parts per billion.

“Mexico has a limit of 20, China 40, Egypt 30 and South Korea 25. Lowering ours to 20 will enable Kenya compete favourably in the liberalised market,” Grain Belt Millers Association chairman Kipngetich Mutai said.

Meanwhile, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has launched the automation of the Seed Certification and Plant Variety Protection System.

The KEPHIS acting Managing Director Simeon Kibet says the automation is a versatile system that allows the seed sector to interact with KEPHIS and also reduces the cost of certification.

KEPHIS says other benefits include reduced transaction time, increased process visibility, increased process and document security, access to information, convenience, ability to make use of data for analytics and ability to make payments online.

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