The Deadly Effect of Aflaxtoxins on Food Production and Human Nutrition (Beyond What You Thought)
The Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, and Federal Government, on Tuesday, resolved to fight deadly aflaxtoxins affecting food production, preservation and consumption.
This was made known by the Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, Fred Kafeero, in a remark at the ‘Inception Workshop on Technical Support to Aflatoxin Management and Mitigation in Nigeria’.
Kafeero who was represented by Assistant Representative, Programme, FAO, Dr Abubakar Suleiman, stressed that food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, producers and consumers, and that everyone has a role to play from farm to table to ensure the food consumed is safe and healthy for a better tomorrow.
According to him, between 1980 and 2016, 389 Nigerian agricultural export shipments were rejected by the EU, with 39 per cent of these being due to aflatoxin contaminations.
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He also added that 2016 study further revealed Nigeria would record 2,437 new cases of aflatoxin-induced liver cancer annually, possibly leading to annual financial loss of up to $997 million.
Meanwhile, the project is expected to gulp $300, 000 in four pilot States, which are Oyo, Kaduna, Kano, and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and will last till August 2022.
He said: “I employ all stakeholders to give their best to achieve the desired outcomes of this project such that together we can fight against aflatoxin contamination of our foods and promote a food-safe community.
“Therefore, ensuring food safety is a public health priority and an essential step to achieving food security.
“This project aims to contributes to the Nigeria’s efforts for putting in place effective food safety and quality control systems that are not only key in safeguarding the health and well-being of people, but also to fostering economic development and improving livelihoods by promoting access to domestic, regional and international markets.
“Aflatoxins, which are toxic and carcinogenic substances produced by certain fungi in a range of staple food and cash crops in Africa and other tropical and sub-tropical regions, constitute a global menace.
“Aflatoxins are attributed to about a 3rd of global liver cancer cases with 40percent of them occurring in Africa, making liver cancer the top cause of cancer mortality.
“They are associated with childhood stunting, massive loss of income for farmers and revenue for government through export food rejections at international markets such as the EU, to mention but a few.
“In animals, aflatoxins induce feed refusal, target organ toxicities, decreased animal product yield and could lead to death. The Aflatoxin problem constitutes a significant threat to food and economic security and undermines poverty eradication in Africa. The problem is so complex that it straddles the agriculture and food security and nutrition, trade and health sectors.
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“Nigeria is one of the countries highly affected by aflatoxins; published evidences indicate contamination of staple foods like maize and groundnuts well above safe levels. The Country-led Situation Analysis and Action Planning (C-SAAP) study commissioned by AUC-PACA in 2016 revealed that about one-third (31per cent) of maize and as much as 51per cent of groundnut kernels intended for human consumption in Nigeria contained unsafe levels of aflatoxins that exceeded the EU regulatory limit of 4 ppb.”
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ernest Umakhihe, in a keynote address lamented that Aflaxtoxins have stunted 4.4 million children under-age five across the country.
Umakhihe who was represented by the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Karima Babangida, pointed that one of the major factors being implicated in the prevalence of malnutrition is aflatoxins in the food chain.
“A number of scientific evidences have correlated exposure of children to aflatoxins with stunting. About 4.4 million children under the age of five are known to be stunted.
“Aflatoxins are known to cause liver cancer and other chronic health effects as well as death. They are the most pervasive food safety challenge facing Africa today.
“Studies have shown that Aflatoxins are attributed to about a third of global liver cancer cases with 40 per cent of them occurring in Africa, making liver cancer the top cause of cancer mortality in the continent.
“Also, aflatoxin-contaminated produce contributes the largest percentage of agricultural commodities from Africa rejected by the EU. In animals, aflatoxins induce feed refusal, target organ toxicities, decreased animal product yield and could lead to death.
“It was as a result of the above grave concerns and the negative public health and economic impact of mycotoxins in Nigeria food system, the Management of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had a compelling need to seek the intervention of FAO to complement the efforts of the Nigerian Government in the control of aflatoxins.
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“In view of the foregoing and given the fact that aflatoxin control has been identified as one of the key nutrition sensitive cost beneficial interventions to reduce malnutrition, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is prioritizing the control and mitigation of aflatoxin contaminations in our food and feed produce in Nigeria.
Also speaking was the Food Safety Expert of FAO in Nigeria, Prof Chibundu Ezekiel, explained that ‘Inception Workshop For the Technical Cooperation Project Technical Support to Aflatoxin Management and Mitigation in Nigeria – TCP/NIR/3804 responds to a Country Government’s request for technical support.
“Here, the Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) requested for technical support from FAO, and FAO agreed to offer this support.
“This joint project between the FAO and the Federal Government, valued at US$300,000, is focused on supporting aflatoxin management and mitigation in Nigeria. The project will be implemented in four states – Oyo, Kaduna, Kano and the FCT.
“The main objective of this project is to increase awareness of the impacts of aflatoxins on human and animal health and build capacity in management, with a view to reducing prevalence of aflaxtoxins containment in agricultural products. This project has three outputs: First, to strengthen capacity of the National testing laboratory to undertake mycotoxin analysis; Secondly, to strengthen knowledge and evidence-based on aflatoxin mitigation and control at the grassroots; and thirdly, to promote awareness and skills building on aflatoxins prevention, control and its impacts”, Ezekiel said.
Also as Focal Point of the project, he pointed that aflatoxins are poisonous chemicals produced by fungi, which are microorganisms that contaminate a range of staple foods and cash/export crops. Aflatoxins are a leading cause of liver cancer globally, particularly in Africa. Contamination of food and feed by aflatoxins is more severe in tropical countries, of which Nigeria is one, because of the prevailing hot and humid climate that favour the fungal growth, as well as poor pre-harvest and post-harvest agricultural practices as well as poor agricultural inputs. Poverty and communal crisis leading to food insecurity further aggravate the aflatoxin menace because people consume contaminated foods under such circumstances.
“Due to the magnitude of the aflatoxin problem and the need to contribute to its mitigation, the project will support the identified National Laboratory situated in Ibadan (Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services) with rapid detection facility. We shall equip this lab and build manpower capacity to test for aflatoxins in crops.
He also made it known that activities will conducted around providing 400 farmers with inputs such as certified seeds, organic fertilizers, and the already proven biocontrol product ‘aflasafe’. Extension agents, 400 farmers and other stakeholders will be sensitized and trained on the adoption and use of these inputs, respectively.
“In addition, the project will develop Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials to be distributed to Agricultural Development Programmes at the State and Local Government levels. These IEC materials will be shared in homes and people will be sensitized on the dangers around having aflatoxin contamination food and how mitigation can be effected. There will be emphasis on the benefits of adopting good post-harvest technologies for aflatoxin control.
“Furthermore, the project will produce “soft” communication tools – radio jingles. We expect these “soft” communication tools to have a wider reach, and we are estimating that over 40,000 individuals or households will be sensitized and equipped with knowledge on how to control aflatoxins in their food crops.
“This project, expected to run till August 2022, will serve as a foundation for better things to come. We are positive that other partners will engage with us and invest more so that we can scale-up this project.
“We are hopeful that this project will contribute to provide safer food, healthier economy, and increased income/revenue through international trade”, he stated.
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