The Minister of Science, Environment and Innovation, Professor Frimpong Boateng has inaugurated a 17-member National Steering Committee for Aflatoxin Control.

At the inaugural ceremony on Wednesday December 12, 2018, the Minister said Children are susceptible to aflatoxin

According to the Minister adults are also at risk when they consume aflatoxin contaminated foods.

Patients with HIV/AIDS infections, Hepatises B among other known diseases he said are at risks when they come into contact with aflatoxins.

Professor Kwabena Frimpong–Boateng, said studies had shown that 30 per cent of all liver cancers could be traced to aflatoxins.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said aflatoxins were poisons and a danger to the health of people, animals, and livestock, even when in low concentrations, saying; “People and animals get aflatoxin from food and animal feed, respectively, prepared from contaminated crop produce.”

On the best way to prevent or control them he said traditional food processing, including soaking, sprouting and fermenting grains reduced levels of aflatoxins significantly, thereby posing little danger to people’s health.

While urging the public to choose food processing options that reduced aflatoxin, he said heating food at the level of 100 and 150 degrees could reduce the presence of aflatoxin but that could not be an alternative because excess heat could reduce the minerals and vitamins in the food.

The primary aim of the Committee, made up of stakeholders from research institutions, food production organisations and the media have the responsibility to spearhead aflatoxins control actions and work closely with the relevant organisation to prioritise aflatoxins in the national programmes.

The Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa is facilitating the establishment of the National Steering Committee for Aflatoxin Control.

The Project Coordinator for the National Steering Committee, Dr. Mrs Rose Omari of CSIR-STEPRI in her presentation said exposure to aflatoxin could occur through inhalation and transmission from mother to child through the l placenta and breast milk.

The Coordinator said exposure to high levels of aflatoxins results in acute health effects such as aflatoxicosis, which could cause internal bleeding and death in severe cases.

She explained that chronic exposure to low levels of aflatoxin over time could result in health problems such as suppression of the immune system, delayed recovery from kwashiorkor, stunting, impairment of liver function, and liver cancer.

“It is estimated that Africa loses up to 670 million dollars annually due to aflatoxin contamination. In 2004, Ghana was ranked among the top 10 countries with the highest number of alert notifications by the European Union’s Rapid Alert System of Food and Feed,” she said.

Alatoxins are natural poisons produced when certain mould species (aspergillus flavus and aspergillus parasiticus) grow in foods.

Aflatoxin B1 is recognised as one of the most potent naturally occurring carcinogenic substances.

Maize, peanuts, dried spices and tree nuts are the most likely foods to contain aflatoxins, but contaminated feed can also lead to livestock products containing aflatoxins.

The aflatoxin-producing aspergillus species grow best in tropical climates.

In livestock, aflatoxins can cause weight loss and death. Chicken fed contaminated feed lay 70% less eggs than those on normal diets.

Africa loses an estimated $670 million in rejected export trade annually due to contaminated by aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins are not entirely destroyed during cooking and processing.

Cooking stiff porridge only reduces the aflatoxin content of flour by 10-18%.

Potential mitigation measures include biological control and good agricultural practices, dietary diversification, good post-harvest practices and food regulations.

Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) is coordinating and supporting management across Africa’s health, agriculture and trade sectors, and supporting country-led evidence generation, action planning, implementation and tracking along selected value chains in Africa.

CSIR-STEPRI is coordinating the project. 

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is the foremost national science and technology institution in Ghana. It is mandated to carry out scientific and technological research for national development.  The Council was established in its present form by NLC Decree 293 of 10th October, 1968 and re-established by CSIR Act 521 of 26th November, 1996. The Council, however, traces its ancestry to the erstwhile National Research Council (NRC), which was established by the Research Act 21 of August, 1958, a little over a year after independence, to organize and co-ordinate scientific research in Ghana and provide the necessary platform for Ghana’s accelerated development.

The Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) was established in 1987 under the (CSIR) to act as a focal point to articulate policy on national Science and Technology (S&T) development.  It was then known as the Technology Transfer Centre (TTC) and as a multidisciplinary unit, dealing with issues of technology utilization, transfer and development.

It conducted diagnostic studies on various sectors of the economy, provided inputs for the formulation of sectorial policies and facilitated the process for the preparation of a Science and Technology (S&T) policy for Ghana.  In 1992, the name of the TTC was changed to the Policy Research and Strategic Planning Institute (PORSPI) and was assigned to the then Ministry of Industries, Science and Technology (MIST) for the purpose of providing direct technical support to the Ministry.   PORSPI was reintegrated into the institutional structure of the CSIR in 1994 and named the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI).

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