About 500 farmers and food processors in the Upper East Region have been sensitised on the mitigation and prevention of aflatoxins in food which are highly toxic to humans and animals.
Additionally, the beneficiary farmers and the food processors who were drawn from the Zuarungu community in the Bolgatanga East District and the Navrongo community in the Kassena-Nankana Municipal, were also introduced to a process that had been developed and proven to reduce the aflatoxin content in white maize known as Nixtamalisation.
Making his presentation on Wednesday at the separate sensitisation forums held in Navrongo and Zuarungu respectively, the Head of Mycotoxins and Histamine laboratory of the Ghana Standards Authority(GSA), Mr Derry Dontoh, stressed that apart from aflatoxins commonly detected in maize, groundnuts, agushie and chili powder, they are also detected in livestock feed.
He stated that the trend, if not checked now, could have greater impact on Ghana’s food security, export and as well as affect the country’s efforts to attain some of the critical goals of the Sustainable Development Goals, which, he noted, impinge on food security and poverty reduction.
He explained it was against this background that the GSA, in conjunction with the Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA), decided to engage most of the stakeholders including farmers, food processors and some tertiary institutions across the Ghana to sensitise the public on aflatoxins and to introduce the new technology which uses lime to mitigate aflatoxins in food, to farmers and the food processors.
Mr Dontoh, who educated the stakeholders on the impact and management of aflatoxins in ensuring food safety and security, also cautioned them that the presence of aflatoxins in food crops could cause cancer in humans and animals.
The Head of Mycotoxins mentioned that aflatoxins are found in air, water and soil, and lead to the contamination of food. He noted that it could cause common health issues such as weight loss, liver, cancer, supersession of the immune system and in the worse form could lead to death.
He pointed out that the damage was worsened by the lack of silo and dry warehouse facilities, compelling majority of farmers to store their produce in poorly ventilated barns.
Mr Dontoh stated that the presence of the toxics in commodities that were exported from Ghana were often rejected at the entry points to the European Union because they did not often meet the international regulations and standard governing food safety.
He cited for instance that in 2015, the European Union threatened to ban exports commodities in Ghana including; groundnut, groundnut paste and cereals, if she was unable to reduce the aflatoxins contents in such commodities.
An expert from the International Maize and White Improvement Centre of Mexico, who took the participants through the new technology of curbing aflatoxin in food using Lime, stated that the technology had been tested and tried and proven to be very effective not only in Mexico but countries such as Kenya.
The Deputy Head of Mission of Mexico to Ghana, Mr Marcos Moreno, said that Mexico’s partnership with the GSA in introducing the new technology would help to deepen the bilateral relationships with Mexico and Ghana.
The programmes, which were highly attended by farmer groups, students and the general public and formed part of the National Sensitisation and Management (NASAM) project, had the overall goal of educating and engaging the private and public sector on the health and economic risks posed by aflatoxin contamination.
FROM SAMUEL AKAPULE, ZUARUNGU