Nigeria’s food and drug regulator, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has organised an awareness workshop for the country’s south-eastern region.
Director General of NAFDAC, Dr Paul Orhii who was represented by Mrs Stella Denloye, NAFDAC’s Director of Laboratory Services, said, said the aims of the campaign were to educate consumers, farmers, and the industrial sector on the risks and harmful effects of aflatoxins in food and feeds as well as their control/reduction strategies.
Produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, aflatoxins are naturally occurring fungal toxins abundant in the soil that contaminate food products such as maize, groundnut, as well as other crops. They are carcinogenic to man and cause immune-suppression, cancer, and growth reduction in animals. In some cases, consumption of high levels of aflatoxins has resulted in deaths of animals and human beings. In Kenya, for instance, consumption of maize contaminated with aflatoxins resulted in about 200 deaths between 2004 and 2006.
“Studies in Nigeria also show high levels of aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnut”, say Drs Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA scientist and team leader for the Africa-wide initiative for the control of aflatoxin; and Joseph Atehnkeng, Project Coordinator for Aflatoxin Control in West Africa.
“And people are consuming these toxins in ignorance, compromising their health,” they added.
To mitigate the spread and contamination of grains by these lethal fungal toxins, IITA and partners developed a biocontrol productaflasafeTMthat has proven effective in controlling aflatoxins. Studies show that the application of aflasafeTM in farmers’ field reduced aflatoxin contamination by more than 90 percent, and birds fed with aflasafeTM-treated maize recorded less mortality and had a higher feed conversion ratio.
Adebowale Akande, Acting Results Aflasafe Pilot Manager, said the flag off aimed to introduce aflasafeTM to farmers in the south-eastern part of the country so that they could adopt and use the product on their farms for both health benefits and higher incomes. “The more people are aware of mitigation options, the better equipped they will be to handle and manage the situation,” Akande added.