The government of Uganda has launched a campaign to combat high levels of aflatoxin in food.

The call, supported by Oxfam, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), the Uganda Grains Council and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, was launched on the eve of this year’s World Food Safety Day.

Aflatoxins are mycotoxins produced by molds that can attack poorly dried foods. High levels can also contaminate food crops such as cereals, legumes, oilseeds, and others, posing a serious health risk to humans and livestock. According to past research, consumption of foods high in aflatoxin increases the risk of liver cancer and other related diseases.

High limits for aflatoxins have also been cited as a “major barrier” to Ugandan agricultural exports to the East African region and overseas. Pollution can also lead to crop loss, contributing to famine.

The campaign aims to raise awareness and educate all stakeholders in the value chain, from the farm to the end consumer, on how to handle food to avoid contamination.

Roles for different stakeholders
Farmers are key stakeholders in the fight, officials said, and they must apply best agricultural practices to ensure food has the right moisture content to eliminate high levels of aflatoxin. This includes ensuring that food crops are collected dry, storing food on pallets rather than on the floor, and covering harvested food during the rainy season.

Traders and manufacturers should test the moisture content of products to ensure they do not exceed the recommended 13 percent and use an aflatoxin testing kit to ensure levels do not exceed 10 ppb before they are released into the production chain.

Carriers were ordered to protect products from rain and dust and to unload them as soon as possible after delivery. They also need to make sure it is dried to the correct moisture content before shipping.

Consumers were encouraged to buy and consume UNBS-certified products and report any distributor or seller of expired or substandard products to the police.

“Together we call on the government, development agencies and other stakeholders to increase support for value chains through research, knowledge dissemination, education, promotion of cooperatives, awareness raising and assistance in the detection and prevention of aflatoxin, so that the products produced and sold are safe for humans. . and animal consumption and hence increased household income, increased food security and improved quality of life.”

Role of the World Food Program
Meanwhile, Mars has renewed its partnership with the World Food Program (WFP).

Virginia Villar Arribas, WFP Associate Director for Private Sector Partnerships, said: “The industry knowledge and experience that Mars brings to WFP greatly adds value to our food safety and quality work, helping to expand our capabilities globally and locally. through strategic leadership, training and processes to improve sustainability across all of our supply chains.”

Since 2015, Mars and WFP have been helping to ensure that vulnerable people have access to safe and nutritious food. Through a partnership, Mars and WFP have strengthened food safety systems, helped reduce risks for food aid recipients, and provided food safety training for small farmers.

Maria Velissariou, vice president of corporate research and development and chief scientist at Mars, said: “Food safety concerns affect everyone from farmers to consumers and will continue to grow due to factors such as climate change and supply chain pressures. . There is always something to do and partnerships are key.”

WFP also shared a story about how it improved food safety at a school in Cambodia.

In 2021, when the school was closed due to COVID-19, WFP, with support from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), built a new kitchen, dining area, and handwashing facilities. This enabled students, teachers and chefs to wash their hands before preparing, serving and eating food.

WFP also provided food safety and hygiene training to school staff, including directors, storekeepers and cooks. This included food storage, fresh food handling, safe food preparation practices, and adherence to basic hygiene and sanitation practices.

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