Farm management of aflotoxins in staple food staffs

By CELAC Mayuge District Farmers’ Network forum led by Mulopi Joseph (chairperson) and Mwanja Edwin(coordinator)

what are aflotoxins?
• Aflotoxins are poisonous compounds produced by moulds (aspergillus flavus) on both pre and post – harvest produce
• They are produced mainly in stored produce, though at times may affect unharvested food
• The main produce affected are seeds of ground nuts, maize, dried cassava, sweet-potato chips, millet, sorghum and Soya bean.

Why the concern about aflotoxins?
• High levels of aflotoxins can cause death to human beings.
• On going exposure to low levels may cause malnutrition or even cancer. This is why contaminated produce cannot be sold bought by likely customers. Thus aflotoxins cause both health and economical problems to the farmers.

Factors that promote on-farm aflotoxins and contamination of food stuffs
Aflotoxins contamination is increased by:-
• Late harvesting especially for groundnuts and maize.
• Physical damage during harvesting, shelling, threshing and transportation.
• Inadequate drying, slow open sun drying especially on bare ground
• Poor storage
• Insect and rat infestation
• Mould infestation

How can we tell a produce is contaminated with aflotoxins?
The only way to tell for sure that produce is infected is to test in a lab but there are signs that lead us to suspect aflotoxins are present. For instance if the produce:
• Shows symptoms of moulds growth
• Is rotten or starts to rot
• Has an unpleasant odor
• Is discolored/ off color
• Has bitter taste (in case of ground nuts and maize grain)
• Has poor milling quality
• Develops parts that are especially warm during storage

Can we avoid or eliminate aflotoxins?
Unlike moulds, germs or insects, aflotoxins, can not be eliminated by ordinary processing methods once the produce is contaminated. Therefore, avoiding conditions that promote aflotoxins contamination is the best control.

What farmers should do
• Timely harvesting especially maize and ground nuts
• Avoid field drying of crops since conditions in the field are not good for drying
• Avoid physical damage during harvesting, shelling and threshing
• Do not store wet harvested produce indoors
• Dry produce as soon as harvesting within 48 hours
• Avoid drying on bare ground
• Ensure that the produce is well dried
• Use proper storage structure
• Do not dry produce on the floor
• Control storage insects and rats
• Store ground nuts in un damaged shells
• Use ground nuts with damaged shells immediately
• Monitor and inspect produce during storage to check if it remains dry and free of insects
• Re-dry produce regularly

Conclusion
Overall maintaince hygiene and sanitary conditions during produce storage and handling

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