Aflatoxins are a major problem in food production, preservation, and consumption, especially in the development world. To reduce its impacts, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has disclosed plans to team up with the Nigerian government to fight aflatoxins, which impedes progress in the food systems in many countries including Nigeria.
The FAO Country Representative, Fred Kafeero, who disclosed the plans at a workshop on “Technical Support to Aflatoxin Management and Mitigation in Nigeria,” decried the adverse impacts of aflatoxins on Nigerian food exports in the international market.
Represented by the FAO’s Assistant Representative, Programme, Dr Abubakar Suleiman Kafeero, stressed the need to upscale efforts to curb the menace, adding that it was necessary for the improvement of the country’s food system.
According to him, Nigeria is one of the worst-hit countries, resulting in severe losses for farmers and an adverse economic impact, on the larger scale.
“I employ all stakeholders to give their best to achieve the desired outcomes of this project such that together we can fight against aflatoxin contamination of our foods and promote a food-safe community.
“Therefore, ensuring food safety is a public health priority and an essential step to achieving food security.
“This project aims to contribute to Nigeria’s efforts for putting in place effective food safety and quality control systems that are not only key in safeguarding the health and well-being of people, but also to fostering economic development and improving livelihoods by promoting access to domestic, regional and international markets,” he said.
Similarly, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ernest Umakhihe, represented by the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Karima Babangida, attributed the rising cases of malnutrition and stunted growth in children to the prevalence of aflatoxins.
“Also, aflatoxin-contaminated produce contributes the largest percentage of agricultural commodities from Africa rejected by the EU. In animals, aflatoxins induce feed refusal, target organ toxicities, decrease animal product yield, and could lead to death.
“It was as a result of the above grave concerns and the negative public health and economic impact of mycotoxins in Nigeria food system, the Management of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had a compelling need to seek the intervention of FAO to complement the efforts of the Nigerian Government in the control of aflatoxins.
“In view of the foregoing and given the fact that aflatoxin control has been identified as one of the key nutrition-sensitive cost-beneficial interventions to reduce malnutrition, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is prioritizing the control and mitigation of aflatoxin contaminations in our food and feed produce in Nigeria,” he said.
Meanwhile, aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize, peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts.
They are carcinogenic, associated with stunted growth for children, and are a leading cause of agricultural losses.
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