Seminar on Aflatoxins in Groundnuts
GSSP organized a seminar today to share the findings from a recent study examining aflatoxins and quality institutions in the groundnut value chain. Aflatoxin is a toxic, carcinogenic by-product of fungi that colonizes maize and groundnuts, among other crops. More than 4.5 billion people in developing countries may be chronically exposed to aflatoxin in their diets. A team led by Shashi Kolavalli and Wojciech Florkowski conducted a survey last year of all economic agents in the groundnut value chain in order to examine production and post harvest practices that contribute to it. They also analyzed samples of raw and processed nuts in order to look at the levels of aflatoxin contamination of groundnut and its products in Ghana.
A few key findings from the analysis included:
- New crop groundnuts have acceptable levels of contamination, but the previous year’s crop, as expected, has unacceptable levels
- Very high levels were found in rejected kernels – however, these rejected kernels don’t leave the food chain and are instead often sold to dawadawa makers and other processors
- Roasted groundnuts, which may often be made from new crops, showed acceptable levels of contamination
- Informal products diluted with other materials also seem to have acceptable levels, but informal products that contain only groundnuts have unacceptable levels of contamination
- Formally manufactured products still have high levels of contamination
Regarding quality institutions, it was found that nearly all traders and vendors have criteria by which they assess the quality of groundnuts they buy, including discoloration, mold, and kernel size, but the rejected kernels, which are potentially more contaminated, still don't leave the human food chain and are simply used for other products. Although consumer education and regulation were suggested as potential strategies for reducing the quantities of aflatoxins consumed, it may be that preventative measures, such as improving cultivation practices, storage facilities, and grading and sorting procedures, may be more effective in reducing aflatoxin contamination in the groundnut chain. For more details, the presentation from today's seminar can be found here, and the final report will be shared on this blog shortly.