KENYA – Grain millers have raised concerns about high levels of cancer-causing aflatoxin in maize being delivered to their premises for processing, especially consignments from the Uganda-Kenya border point of Busia.  

This concern stems from the influx of cheap maize from Uganda, which, according to reports, has not undergone proper drying, leading to elevated aflatoxin levels.

Responding to the concerns, Kennedy Nyaga, chairman Grain Mill Owners Association said that the maize arriving from Uganda is not meeting the required moisture content standards, adding that millers with aflatoxin testing kits are shying away from buying the ‘cheap’ maize.

He, however, lamented that the said maize still finds its way into the market despite the government urging millers to mop up local maize which is well-dried.

Even though some millers possess aflatoxin testing kits, they are hesitant to purchase the ‘cheap’ maize, yet it continues to find its way into the market, posing a significant risk to consumers,” he stated.

Aflatoxin, a toxic byproduct of fungi, poses severe health risks, including liver cancer and acute toxicity. The contamination hotspots in Kenya primarily include semi-arid regions with temperatures exceeding 25 degrees Celsius.

The toxin contamination in food products is regulated globally, with Kenya maintaining a maximum limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for total aflatoxins in maize and maize products, consistent with international standards.

Nyaga emphasized the importance of food safety, particularly during challenging economic times when many Kenyans are turning to local posho mills for maize milling.

He urged consumers to ensure that maize being processed at these mills is adequately dried to mitigate aflatoxin contamination risks.

This concern is not isolated to the Busia region. The Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) has previously reported aflatoxin contamination in maize-growing areas like Trans Nzoia and Bungoma counties.

Dr. Eliud Kireger, KALRO’s Director-General, attributed this phenomenon to climate change and rising temperatures, noting that traditionally non-affected areas are now experiencing aflatoxin issues.

Researchers emphasize the importance of artisanal aflatoxin control methods, such as using certified seeds, proper drying techniques, and hermetic storage, to mitigate contamination risks.

They also advocate for increased public health education and active surveillance to monitor and minimize aflatoxin levels in maize.

In response to these challenges, KALRO has developed Aflasafe KE01, a biological control agent that suppresses aflatoxin-producing fungi in soil.

However, experts urge the government to subsidize this product, similar to fertilizer subsidies, to encourage widespread adoption by farmers and protect public health.

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