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Aflatoxins have serious consequences for agriculture and food security, trade and health


Aug 6, 2021

BUJUMBURA August 6th (ABP) – The consequences of aflatoxins, which are toxins produced by certain fungi, have implications for agriculture and food security, trade and health, the researcher of the International Institute for tropical agriculture, Mr. Christophe Gahungu, told a check by ABP on Tuesday August 3 in an interview.

According to him, aflatoxin contamination of commonly consumed foods can affect the production of the agricultural sector in general and each of the four pillars of food security, namely availability, access, quality of food and regularity. Producers of contaminated harvests will suffer financial losses through rejection of their products, reduced market value, or inability to access higher-value international trade.

In addition, contaminated food poses a clear threat to food security, regarding the link between aflatoxin and certain adverse effects on human health. Chronic exposure to contaminated crops, even at low levels, significantly increases the risk of liver cancer. Aflatoxin can also enter the food chain, through livestock products, if cattle are consuming contaminated feed, he said. Consuming large amounts of it can be fatal. Children can also be affected when they are breastfed or when they consume weaning foods directly. It is also associated with stunted growth and reduced immunity.

In terms of trade, many countries have regulations in place to eliminate exposure to aflatoxin, usually expressed in parts per billion. Those regulations can lead to loss of revenue, because on the international market, products that do not meet aflatoxin limits are rejected at the border, in distribution chains, sold at a reduced price. Similar losses can occur in national markets if consumers are made aware of aflatoxin or if the main actors in the distribution channels pay increasing attention to it and / or if regulations become more stringent or are strictly enforced.