Monday, April 23, 2012

Making food safe: Two projects to combat mycotoxin contamination in Tanzania launched

Project partners pose for a group photo at a meeting to
launch and plan for the implementation of two projects to
control mycotoxin contamination in Tanzania 

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and its partners recently launched two new research projects in Tanzania aimed at understanding the extent of mycotoxin contamination and developing a comprehensive and lasting solution for reducing contamination to improve the health and livelihoods of millions of families in the country and reduce loss of income. 

Mycotoxins are poisonous chemicals secreted by naturally occurring fungi which colonize key staple crops while in the fields and during storage. In high concentrations, they make them unfit for human and livestock consumption and for trade. The most common are aflatoxins and fumonisins which have been shown to cause cancer and stunt growth of children.

They are a great constraint to improving the health and wellbeing of people in Africa where testing contamination of agricultural crops is generally not routinely carried out unless it is intended for export. As a result, millions of people living in Africa are chronically exposed to aflatoxins and fumonisins through their diets. 

Preliminary studies by the Tanzania Food and Drugs Administration (TFDA) have documented levels of aflatoxins and fumonisins in maize – the country’s number one staple food- that are way above the recommended maximum limits.

The first project, a six-month research funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Food the Future (FtF) initiative, will establish the extent and spread of mycotoxin contamination of maize and cassava at the homestead and in the markets in Dodoma and Manyara.

The second initiative seeks to introduce a safe and natural technology developed by the United States Department for Agriculture – Agricultural Research Services (USDA-ARS) and IITA that can effectively reduce aflatoxin contamination of maize and groundnuts in the field and during storage.

Aflatoxin is produced by a fungus, Aspergillus flavus. Luckily, not all strains produce the toxin. The innovative biocontrol solution being proposed in the project therefore works by identifying and introducing the naturally occurring non-toxic strains ‘the good fungus’ that can out-compete, displace and drastically reduce the population of their poisonous cousins ‘the bad fungus’. 

It has been successfully piloted in Nigeria under the name Aflasafe where it has been shown to reduce contamination by 99%. Country specific biocontrol products are also being developed for Senegal, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Zambia.

This project therefore aims at extending the technology to Tanzania. Four non-toxic strains of the fungus that are most effective in displacing the toxic strains in the country will be identified and formulated into a biocontrol product. Its effectiveness in reducing aflatoxin contamination will then be evaluated under farmers’ field conditions.  If it is found to be effective, it will then be submitted to the Tropical Pesticide Research Institute (TPRI) for registration as a biopesticide for aflatoxin reduction.

The development of the biocontrol technology for Tanzania is funded by Meridian Institute on behalf of the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) which was created at the recommendations of the 7th Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) partnership platform where the urgent need to control mycotoxin contamination was emphasized. 

The two projects were launched at a two-day meeting from 18 – 19 April in Dar es Salaam organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) that brought together all the partners to plan for their implementation. 

Project partners: MAFC, IITA, Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Tanzania Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) and Tropical Pests Research Institute (TPRI).

1 comment:

  1. The country’s number one staple food- that are way above the recommended maximum limits.
    Food La Verne