By Edward Acquah
Accra, Oct. 13, GNA – A national policy to provide a coordinated approach among institutions and stakeholders in the control of aflatoxin in food and feed has been launched in Accra.
The National Policy for Aflatoxin Control in Food and Feed seeks to reduce foodborne diseases, increase the income of farmers and actors in the agriculture value chain, and promote food security in keeping with Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals – “Achieve zero hunger by 2030.
Dr Kwaku Afriyie, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, launched the Policy at a ceremony in Accra on Wednesday, October 12, 2022.
Aflatoxin is a class of toxic compounds produced by certain moulds found in food and could cause liver damage and cancer when consumed by humans or animals.
Factors such as high temperature, high humidity and bad hygienic practices often predispose food products to mould infection and subsequent aflatoxin production.
According to researchers, the toxin was discovered in Ghana in 1964 and was found in groundnuts. It is estimated that the country loses about 18 per cent of its maize annually to aflatoxin contamination.
Dr Afriyie lauded the development of the Policy, saying aflatoxin contamination in food had serious implications on food safety and security, health, trade and livelihoods.
He said although there was no data linking aflatoxin to liver cancer in Ghana, the cases had been increasing, with 3,453 people suffering from liver cancer in 2020, representing 21 per cent of all cancers.
He said aflatoxins also posed a barrier to trade and market development due to the rejection of contaminated products by buyers, including the food industry and importing countries.
“In the early 2000s European Union (EU) was the main destination for Ghana’s groundnuts and maize products but currently, the quantities have declined such that in 2019 for example, only 10 per cent of the exported peanut butter went to the EU markets.” Dr Afriyie said.
He appealed called for more studies among scientists and clinicians to generate reliable data on the impact of aflatoxins on health to guide studies and public education.
Dr Afriyie said public awareness was key to the effective implementation of the Policy and assured that the Ministry would lead the way to educate the general public on aflatoxins.
In a speech read on his behalf, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture, said the country lost billions of dollars as a result of the rejection of grains due to aflatoxin contamination, describing the situation as worrying.
“It is my expectation that the Policy will lead to a considerable reduction of the high levels of aflatoxins contamination in maize, groundnut and others, thereby improving the health of the Ghanaian and also boosting domestic and international trade,” he said.
Professor Charles Tortoe, Director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Food Research Institute, said the Institute would continue to lead research in the agriculture sector to guarantee food safety and security.
He urged all stakeholders to integrate the Policy in their work plans to ensure a successful implementation.