The East African Community member (EAC) states plan to develop a policy framework to address the human and animal health threat of aflatoxin contamination and boost food security, the economic bloc said on Wednesday.
Christophe Bazivamo, Deputy Secretary General of the EAC, told a regional forum in Nairobi that 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,” Bazivamo said.
The overall goal of the framework is to contribute to food and nutrition security as well as to protect human, animal and plant health.
Bazivamo said, to eliminate the threat of aflatoxin, 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.
According to Bazivamo, the control of aflatoxin will enable the EAC to expand intra-regional trade in the agricultural products.
He said a comparative analysis of trade-related impacts of aflatoxin indicate that export destinations such as the EU have rejected agricultural commodities from the region leading to huge losses.
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, said aflatoxins contaminate about 25 percent of agricultural products in Kenya.
Kiunjuri said the country has experienced multiple aflatoxicosis outbreaks in recent years, often resulting in fatalities.
He said 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.
The cabinet secretary said mitigating the impacts of aflatoxin demands good management practices in crop and animal production, drying, handling and storage.