Mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin, are toxins found in food that can cause illness and be lethal in high doses. These toxins are formed by strains of moulds that infest susceptible grains such as maize and sorghum. Dairy cows that eat contaminated feed can yield contaminated milk.
Milk is a major food in Kenya. Understanding how, and to what extent, these toxins affect dairy products in this country is under investigation by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
‘We don’t know enough about the specifics of milk consumption in Kenya’, says Johanna Lindahl, a food safety researcher at ILRI. ‘We know that some groups, such as young children, pregnant and nursing women, as well as livestock herders, consume more milk than others.’
ILRI is determining the risks posed to such different groups of people by exposure to aflatoxin-contaminated milk in a ‘My-Dairy’ project in Kenya funded by Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In a series of studies, this project, which is under the CGIAR Research Programs on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) and Policies, Institutions and Markets, is also assessing the economic impacts of contaminated dairy feeds and the most appropriate ways of reducing aflatoxins along Kenya’s dairy feed chain.
‘Because people in Kenya consume much more milk than people in other African countries, with estimates as high as 145 litres per person each year, Kenyans are likely to be more at risk from aflatoxin-contaminated milk than other Africans’, Lindahl says.
‘We’ve been carrying out a series of “participatory rural appraisals” in villages to understand the current knowledge, attitudes and practices of farmers’, she says.
Preliminary findings from this research were presented at an ILRI lunch roundtable for science journalists in Nairobi in Nov 2013. The briefing highlighted on-going multi-institutional efforts to combat aflatoxins in the food and feed chains of Kenya.
Read the complete media brief, ‘Safer food through risk reduction of aflatoxins within the feed-dairy chain in Kenya’.
Read a series of 19 briefs released Nov 2013 by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and its 2020 Vision initiative jointly with the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Health and Nutrition (A4NH), which is led by IFPRI, with a component on Agriculture-Associated Diseases led by Delia Grace, of ILRI. Grace co-edited the series of briefs, co-authored the overview (Tackling Aflatoxins) and wrote the brief on Animals and Aflatoxins. Two other ILRI scientists, Jagger Harvey and Benoit Gnonlonfin, of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub, in Nairobi, Kenya, are among the authors of the brief on Improving Diagnostics for Aflatoxin Detection.
Here are links to all 19 IFPRI-2020 Initiative-A4NH briefs:
1. Tackling Aflatoxins: An Overview of Challenges and Solutions
by Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace (ILRI)
2. Aflatoxicosis: Evidence from Kenya
by Abigael Obura
4. Child Stunting and Aflatoxins
by Jef L Leroy
5. Animals and Aflatoxins
by Delia Grace (ILRI)
7. Farmer Perceptions of Aflatoxins: Implications for Intervention in Kenya
by Sophie Walker and Bryn Davies
8. Market-led Aflatoxin Interventions: Smallholder Groundnut Value Chains in Malawi
by Andrew Emmott
9. Aflatoxin Management in the World Food Programme through P4P Local Procurement
by Stéphane Méaux, Eleni Pantiora and Sheryl Schneider
10. Reducing Aflatoxins in Africa’s Crops: Experiences from the Aflacontrol Project
by Clare Narrod
11. Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions to Reduce Aflatoxin Risk
by Felicia Wu
12. Trade Impacts of Aflatoxin Standards
by Devesh Roy
13. Codex Standards: A Global Tool for Aflatoxin Management
by Renata Clarke and Vittorio Fattori
14. The Role of Risk Assessment in Guiding Aflatoxin Policy
by Delia Grace (ILRI) and Laurian Unnevehr
15. Mobilizing Political Support: Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa
by Amare Ayalew, Wezi Chunga and Winta Sintayehu
16. Biological Controls for Aflatoxin Reduction
by Ranajit Bandyopadhyay and Peter J Cotty
17. Managing Aflatoxin Contamination of Maize: Developing Host Resistance
by George Mahuku, Marilyn L Warburton, Dan Makumbi and Felix San Vicente
18. Reducing Aflatoxins in Groundnuts through Integrated Management and Biocontrol
by Farid Waliyar, Moses Osiru, Hari Kishan Sudini and Samuel Njoroge
19. Improving Diagnostics for Aflatoxin Detection
by Jagger Harvey (BecA-ILRI Hub), Benoit Gnonlonfin (BecA-ILRI Hub), Mary Fletcher, Glen Fox, Stephen Trowell, Amalia Berna, Rebecca Nelson and Ross Darnell
Photo caption: Milk at a dairy plant in Ol-Kalou, Kenya (credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).