New research evidence could have significant implications for breeding approaches to combat harmful aflatoxin contamination in maize while simultaneously contributing to alleviate vitamin A deficiency. The study ‘Provitamin A Carotenoids in Grain Reduce Aflatoxin Contamination of Maize While Combating Vitamin A Deficiency’ is the first published report to document how biofortification – the process by which staple crops are bred to increase micronutrient content in their edible parts to address hidden hunger – with provitamin A (proVA) can contribute to reduce aflatoxin contamination in maize, thereby addressing two major health concerns.
Aflatoxins are harmful compounds that are produced by the
fungus Aspergillus flavus, which can
be found in the soil, plants and grain of a variety of legumes and cereals
including maize. Toxic to humans and animals, aflatoxins are associated with
liver and other cancers and weakened immune systems that result in increased
burden of disease, micronutrient deficiencies, and stunting or underweight
development in children.
Flashback: In early 2015, Kenya’s National Irrigation Board (NIB) purchased Aflasafe to help deal with aflatoxin contamination in maize, a predicament afflicting some of its irrigation schemes. For example, in most years, the UN’s World Food Programme was unable to purchase maize from the towns of Hola and Bura in Kenya owing to excessive aflatoxin. Fastforward to 2017: What were the results of this NIB purchase then, and today, two years on? Read on!
It’s blowing in the wind. Follow Sarah Chughu’s ‘pointing’ finger. See the tiny specks in the clouds on the left? That’s Aflasafe KE01 which Sarah was broadcasting at Galana-Kulalu, Eastern Kenya, in July 2016. An all-natural product, Aflasafe consistently reduces aflatoxin by between 80 and 99% at harvest and in storage. (Photo: U Mutuku/IITA)
Aflatoxin in food was among the prominent issues discussed at the recent First All-Africa Postharvest Congress and Exhibition held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 28th to 31st March 2017. The Congress attracted about 600 participants from 22 countries including outside Africa. Its theme was Reducing food waste and losses: sustainable solutions for Africa. Two African staples – groundnuts and maize – are particularly aflatoxin-prone.