The Ugandan government has officially launched a campaign, in connection with Oxfam and the country’s National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), and other stakeholders, to begin the fight against aflatoxins in food.
Aflatoxins are mold-produced mycotoxins that can wreak havoc on produce that hasn’t been properly dried. Food crops such as grains, legumes, oil crops, and others can be contaminated at high levels, providing a major health danger to humans and cattle.
According to a previous study, eating foods high in aflatoxin increases the risk of liver cancer and other disorders. High aflatoxin restrictions have also been cited as a “significant impediment” to Ugandan agricultural exports to the East African area and beyond. Contamination can also result in crop loss, which adds to hunger.
Certified goods ‘only’
The programme aims to raise awareness and provide training to all stakeholders in the food supply chain, from the farm to the end consumer, on how to handle food safely and avoid contamination. Consumers are also now being asked to purchase and eat only UNBS-certified goods and to report to the authorities any distributor or dealer selling expired or subpar food products.
“Together, we call upon the government, development agencies, and other stakeholders to increase support to the value chains through research, extension, training, promotion of cooperatives, awareness, and assistance in detecting and preventing aflatoxin so that foods produced and traded are safe for human and animal consumption and consequently increase household incomes, improve food security and improve the quality of life,” the UNBS said.
Meanwhile, the European Union has launched a programme in Kenya that also concentrates on reducing the harm of aflatoxins in groundnut production across three counties.
Aflatoxin is a toxin produced naturally by the fungi Aspergillus Flavus and Parasiticus Fungus, which regularly infect food crops. According to the International Livestock Research Institute, the main sources of aflatoxin exposure in Kenya are maize, groundnuts, wheat, and milk.
More than 300 farmers have been trained on the type of groundnuts to plant in their respective ecological zones as part of the multi-million EU-funded Market Access Upgrade Program (MARKUP), which is being implemented by the United Nations Industrial Organization in collaboration with the Kenyan government and private sector stakeholders. Mycotoxins, including aflatoxin, pesticides, and microbiological contamination are documented food safety incidents throughout the groundnut value chain.
Unsafe food including germs, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances, according to the World Health Organization, causes more than 200 ailments, ranging from diarrhea to cancer.