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) organized an awareness workshop for the country’s southeastern region today.
The Director General of NAFDAC, Dr Paul Orhii, 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.
Dr Orhii, who was represented by Mrs Stella Denloye, NAFDAC’s Director of Laboratory Services, said, “The clear objectives are to highlight the extent of aflatoxin contamination of Nigeria’s staple foods and export commodities … the negative economic impact on trade and foreign exchange earnings … and to draw attention to mitigation 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 product—aflasafeTM—that 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, AgResults Aflasafe Pilot Manager, said the flag off aimed to introduce aflasafeTM to farmers in the southeastern 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.
The workshop in Enugu is the third in the series, coming after similar ones in Abuja and Ibadan for the north central and south western regions of Nigeria, respectively. It builds on ongoing initiatives such as the Commercial Agricultural Development Program (CADP).
The awareness/sensitization workshops are supported by Australia/AUSAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada/Finance Canada, the United Kingdom/DFID, and the United States/USAID through Deloitte Consulting LLC on behalf of the World Bank under the AgResults Initiative.
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