K. Hell; C. Mutegi
Type of Document:
African Journal of Microbiology Research
Date of Publication:
Place of Publication:
Abstract: Aflatoxins are secondary fungal metabolites that contaminate agricultural commodities and can cause sickness or death in humans and animals. Risk of aflatoxin contamination of food and feed in Africa is increased due to environmental, agronomic and socio-economic factors. Environmental conditions especially high humidity and temperature favour fungal proliferation, but also drought conditions increase risk of aflatoxin contamination. Low-input farming practices compound fungal and aflatoxin contamination of crops. The socio-economic and food security status of the majority of inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa leaves them few options for choosing low-risk and high quality products. Several technologies have been tested in Africa to reduce aflatoxin risk. Field management practices that increase yields can reduce the risk of aflatoxin development. They include use of resistant varieties, crop rotation, well-timed planting, weed control, pest control especially control of insect pests and avoiding drought and nutritional stress through fertilization and irrigation. Measures to stop the infection process by controlling the aflatoxin causing fungi in the field are achieved through use of pesticides and atoxigenic fungi to competitively displace toxigenic fungi, and timely harvest. Postharvest interventions that reduce aflatoxin include rapid and proper drying, proper transportation and packaging, sorting, cleaning, drying, smoking, post harvest insect control, and the use of botanicals or synthetic pesticides as storage protectants. Another approach is to reduce the frequent consumption of ‘high risk’ foods (especially maize and groundnut) by consuming a more varied diet, and diversifying
the diet into less risky staples like sorghum and millet. Chemo-preventive measures that can reduce aflatoxin effect include daily consumption of chlorophyllin or oltipraz and incorporating hydrated sodium calcium alumino-silicates into the diet. Reduction and detoxification of aflatoxin is often achieved physically (sorting, physical segregation, flotation etc.), chemically (e.g. calcium hydroxide, ammonia) and microbiologically by incorporating pro-biotics or lactic acid bacteria into the diet. Millers can use blending of less and more contaminated products to reduce the overall risk. There is need for efficient monitoring and surveillance with cost-effective sampling and analytical methods to reduce risk in Africa. Public education and awareness can sensitize the population on aflatoxin risk and its management.