A new compilation of 25 studies in Africa finds that informal markets provide essential sources of food and income for millions of poor, with milk and meat that is often safer than supermarkets. Misguided efforts to control the alarming burden of food-related illnesses in low-income countries risk intensifying malnutrition and poverty — while doing little to improve food safety. Blunt crack-downs on informal milk and meat sellers that are a critical source of food and income for millions of people are not the solution.
Aflatoxins are toxic chemicals produced as by-products by fungi (moulds) that grow on maize, groundnuts and other food crops. These toxins also affect feedstuffs, which then contaminate milk, meat and eggs. The toxins occur everywhere in the world, but pose particularly high risks in tropical developing countries where certain staple foods, such as maize and sorghum, comprise a large part of the diets of the poor.