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Expert says “aflatoxin” harmful on humans

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Dr Vabi Michael, an agricultural expert has warned on use of aflatoxin,  saying it contains some poisonous fungi that can cause damage in humans when ingested above permissible level.

Aflatoxins are family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize (corn), peanuts, cotton seed and tree nuts.

The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) had approved that aflatoxin should not be more than 20 micro-gram per kg in a commodity.

Michael, a Country Manager, United State Agency International Development (USAID) Groundnut Technology Up-scaling project, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja.

According to Michael, the project is working a lot on the challenges of aflatoxin as a serious issue in groundnut, wheat and sorghum because it is a poisonous substance that is present in both commodities.

“Aflatoxin reduces fertility in man but those of us that are not really conscious about ingestion or eating of groundnut, we should know that this is a potential issue as far as aflatoxin is concern.

“Am sure you must have eaten groundnut or groundnut products today, be sure that it has aflatoxin but that should not cause fear, the question should be whether the aflatoxin you have taken is above the permissible level.

“If it is not above permissible level, there is no issue because SON says that acceptable level of aflatoxin in groundnut in Nigeria should be 20 micro-gram per kilogram.

“Even if it is not above 20 micro-gram per kilogram, do not be worried about it but continued ingestion of aflatoxin will take you above the level that is not acceptable,” he said.

He said that the project also helped farmers to produce groundnuts on a larger scale, taking improved varieties groundnut to farmers for better yields and to increase their income.

“Our work shows that all the improved varieties of groundnut that are growing in Nigeria have certain levels of aflatoxin.

“The most important message is that the local varieties of groundnut has high level of aflatoxin than improves varieties that we are promoting.

“We have initiated a process for farmers to produce enough groundnuts for Nigeria and this project is going to intensify it so that farmers have access to improved quality varieties of groundnut,”  he said.

He said that some of the key strategies that had proven to prevent contamination with aflatoxins was to ensure that grains were protected from water absorption during storage and to buy well dried foodstuffs.

“Ensure constant monitoring of moisture content during storage, and controlling pest during storage by putting good pest management practices in place throughout the storage period.

“Observe the principle of First-In-First-Out (FIFO) when taking produce out of store because the longer it is in the storage, the more vulnerable to aflatoxin contamination.

“All value chain actors should be trained on integrated aflatoxin management using Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points approach,” he added.

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