Caution Cited On Aflatoxin Threat to Food Security

INCREASING contamination of food crops with aflatoxin is, besides jeopardising public health, threatening the country's food security, experts have warned, proposing proper handling of food from farming to storage phases.

"Aflatoxin contamination is a serious problem that demands concerted mitigation efforts,"Tanzania Initiatives for Preventing Aflatoxin Contamination (TANIPAC) Project Officer Ali Hamad said yesterday.

Speaking at the ongoing third Nanenane exhibitions at Chamanangwe grounds here, the officer blamed aflatoxin on improper farming, harvesting, processing and storage of food crops.

He said the five-year TANIPAC project envisages addressing the problem through training and construction of modern storage facilities to hygienically preserve food crops.

"In Zanzibar, the project will construct two warehouses-one each in Unguja and Pemba; conduct public awareness campaigns and strengthen institutional capacity for development of value chains for safe and nutritious food as well as innovative marketing incentives," he said.

The project, which targets ten regions in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar, aims at minimizing the problem of aflatoxin in the food system through an integrated approach in maize and groundnuts food chains.

The target project areas are Bahi, Chemba, Kondoa and Kongwa in Dodoma; Kilosa and Gairo in Morogoro; Nanyumbu and Newala in Mtwara; Namtumbo in Ruvuma; Kasulu and Kibondo in Kigoma; Nzega and Urambo in Tabora; Babati and Kiteto in Manyara; Mwanza's Buchosa; Itilima in Simiyu; Bukombe in Geita; and Pemba and Unguja in Zanzibar.

The project, according to Mr Hamad, targets all stakeholders in the maize and groundnut value chains.

It will directly benefit about sixty thousand farmers, 120 extension and technical staff, 400 youths, 2,000 traders and transporters as well as 2,000 small and medium enterprises.

"But, the entire population will ultimately benefit albeit indirectly, because mitigation of aflatoxin in staple food will improve public health," said the project officer.

Aflatoxin has become a serious food safety concern, with many countries reporting food contamination cases.

The problem was first reported in central Tanzania some four years ago, with the first outbreak affecting many people and claiming 19 lives.