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IITA, EAGC sign MoU to produce aflatoxin-free grains for health and trade

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) have signed an MoU to work together to tackle aflatoxin contamination of grains in the region

This will help ensure that the grains are safe for consumption by humans and livestock and meet export standards.

Aflatoxin is a highly toxic chemical produced by a natural fungus, known as the Aspergillus flavus. The fungus is found in soils, and when not properly dried and stored, it attacks important crops such as maize and groundnut while in the field and storage.

Aflatoxin poses a serious threat to human health and animals alike. Acute poisoning can lead to instant death as a result of consuming foods with extremely high levels of aflatoxin. Chronic exposure, by contrast, can result in lower immunity, low birth weight, and irreversible stunting in children and liver cancer for many years as a result of consuming foods with above-allowable safe levels.

Aflatoxin also causes loss in revenues from trade due to contamination of products that do not meet the standards required. According to the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), Africa is losing an estimated US$670mn annually due to aflatoxin contamination in the rejected export trade.

As per the agreement, IITA, a not-for-profit research institution that generates innovations to address major agricultural challenges in Africa, and EAGC, a member organisation that brings together major players across the eastern and southern African grain value chain, will promote, among others, best practises and proven aflatoxin management technologies.

This will include promoting the use of Aflasafe, an innovative, safe, and natural product as part of an integrated aflatoxin management strategy that dramatically reduces aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnuts.

Originally developed by the US Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), the technology is widely used in the US. IITA has successfully adapted this technology for use in many African countries, in partnership with the USDA.