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Experts recommend maize stalks, ash solutions, banana peels/beans to reduce aflatoxin


Sci­ent­ists have re­com­men­ded simple in­di­gen­ous ways that ugali lov­ers can sig­ni­fic­antly re­duce levels of aflatoxin in their maize meals using li­quid ex­trac­ted from ba­nana peels or beans and maize stalks ash solu­tions.

This is cheaper and af­ford­able as com­pared to aflasafe, a bio­lo­gical solu­tion made from sterile sorghum and coated with four atox­i­genic ap­plied to maize plants at flower­ing stage to pre­vent aflatoxin caus­ing fungi from ac­cess­ing maize cobs. Aflasafe is sold at between Sh1,240 and Sh2,070 for every 10kg pack in cer­ti­fied agro-vets.

However, with ashes li­quid which con­sumers can eas­ily ac­cess, only 30 minutes are enough to make a solu­tion and sieve it to apply it in githeri, uji (por­ridge), and ugali to pro­tect them from aflatoxin’s harm­ful ef­fects.

“The ex­trac­ted li­quid which is al­kaline in nature has the abil­ity to break down the deadly mo­lecule in aflatoxin and re­duce levels of the poison in maize meals,” said Jasper Ka­thenya Imungi, Pro­fessor of Food Tech­no­logy, De­part­ment of Food Sci­ence, Nu­tri­tion and Tech­no­logy at the Uni­versity of Nairobi.

RE­LATED CON­TENT: Ap­ply­ing aflasafe chem­ical two to three weeks ahead of maize flower­ing stops aflatoxin

Aflatoxin is a toxin pro­duced by a fungus that grows on cer­tain crops, such as maize and ground­nuts. Con­sump­tion of high levels of aflatoxin can be fatal, and chronic ex­pos­ure has been linked to liver can­cer, sup­pressed im­mune re­sponse, and child stunt­ing. Maize is a staple food in Kenya and is a major source of aflatoxin ex­pos­ure in the coun­try.

Imungi’s re­search on the ef­fect­ive of the ex­trac­ted ash li­quid in re­du­cing aflatoxin levels is widely bor­rowed from a for­mula that was used and worked in Mex­ico and the test has been car­ried in sev­eral parts of the coun­try and con­firmed work­ing.

He also says that other meth­ods such as nix­tamal­iz­a­tion and mix­ing maize flour with flour from tubers such as cas­sava can also re­duce aflatoxin ef­fects.

“Nix­tamal­iz­a­tion typ­ic­ally refers to a pro­cess for the pre­par­a­tion of maize, or other grain, in which the grain is soaked and cooked in an al­kaline solu­tion, usu­ally lime­wa­ter, and hulled like in muthokoi,” said Imungi.

RE­LATED CON­TENT: Fight­ing aflatox­ins an orphan at a time

With maize being the staple food crop in Kenya, aflatoxin poses a major pub­lic health scare to most con­sumers of the diet. The in­fest­a­tion by the fungus has led to a sig­ni­fic­ant amount of har­ves­ted grains going to waste lead­ing to im­port­a­tion of maize in Kenya.

Last week, Kenya Bur­eau of Stand­ards (KEBS) sus­pen­ded seven pea­nut but­ter products which in­clude Nuteez pea­nut but­ter, True nuts, Fressy, Supa meal, Sue’s Nat­ur­als, Zesta and Nutty over aflatoxin con­tam­in­a­tion.

In 2004 for in­stance 125 Kenyans died after con­sum­ing aflatoxin-in­fes­ted food. In 2016, ag­ri­cul­tural ex­perts and the Kenya Bur­eau of Stand­ards warned of pres­ence of the deadly toxin in food such as maize flour and milk sold in su­per­mar­kets across the coun­try.

Also, in 2014 the Kenya Ag­ri­cul­tural and Live­stock Re­search Or­gan­iz­a­tion (Karlo) launched the coun­try’s first ever aflatoxin labor­at­ory to tame aflatoxin pois­on­ing.

RE­LATED CON­TENT:  Mois­ture meters tame aflatoxin pois­on­ing in Uganda

The pois­on­ing has be­come es­pe­cially com­plic­ated be­cause ma­jor­ity of small scale farm­ers who pro­duce the con­tam­in­ated maize con­sume the con­tam­in­ated maize.

The lab was launched to­gether with a Sh14.62 mil­lion fa­cil­ity to pro­duce aflasafe, which can also sup­press aflatoxin pro­du­cing fungi in the soil.

It was pro­jec­ted that the plant will pro­duce 15 tons of the aflasafe in a week, with the ini­tial tar­get being to pro­duce suf­fi­cient amounts to treat about 100, 000 hec­tares.

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