4 December 2012

Tanzania: Public Education On Safe Agriculture Needed

THE government is planning to introduce public education on safe agriculture following a study carried out jointly by four institutions that revealed aflatoxin prevalence in the country.

Aflatoxin is a disease associated with various human health effects such as liver cancers, childhood stunting, immune suppression and low birth weight.

Acting Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Donald Mbando, said in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the presence and effect of aflatoxin and other mycotoxins in human body is not widely understood locally.

"Most people are not aware that this odourless, tasteless and invisible (to the naked eye) toxin, if left untreated, exists in our cereals and grains," said Dr Mbando while opening a two-day Aflatoxin Stakeholders' workshop.

The study has been jointly conducted by Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Ghent University of Belgium and ABT Associate in Morogoro, Mbeya, Kilimanjaro, Manyara and Iringa regions.

He said the government has been enforcing food control system as the main approach to protect the public from exposure to these pollutants and that food control measures alone are not sufficient to combat the problem.

"The success in control of aflatoxin and any other mycotoxins requires a comprehensive and participatory approach with multiple partners and joint strategies by governments, the private sector, farmers and consumers," he said.

TFDA Director General, Mr Hiiti Sillo, said the study used several samples to establish the prevalence of aflatoxin, saying samples which were available included maize and groundnuts from Tanzania's agro-ecological zones.

"The research revealed that maize from some regions of Tanzania is contaminated with aflatoxin," he said. Mr Sillo pointed out that some of the maize consumers from the studied areas were exposed to unacceptably high levels of mycotoxin.

He noted that the country and economic assessment of aflatoxin prevalence and impact is conducted in two countries in Africa. He named the countries as Tanzania and Nigeria.

"TFDA is committed to providing leadership in implementation measures that this workshop will determine as workable for mitigation of the problem of aflatoxin contamination in food," he concluded.

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