Developing world such as Africa are in danger of exposure or consuming food contaminated with fungal poisons, aflatoxins, which has a negative impact on health, trade, and food security.
Many countries have implemented specific regulations base on the usage of the products to reduce the contamination of aflatoxin. The measurements to determine the exposure of aflatoxin is used in numbers of parts per billion (ppb).
To date, policy in Africa relating to aflatoxin regulation has been limited due to the lack of infrastructure. Some agencies have joined together in collaboration to protect agriculture and human from the harmful effects of aflatoxins.
Combatting aflatoxin can be done by enforcing national standards throughout Sub-Saharan Africa with the support of private and public sectors investing in basic infrastructure. Furthermore, new organizations and programs can aid in providing medicine, supplies or resources to help improve agriculture and treat aflatoxin illness.
Research is warranted for "aflatoxin-resistant" planting materials and alternative uses of contaminated products.
A. Description of Issue/Topic:
Aflatoxin is a toxin from fungi that infect crops such as corn, peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts worldwide. Yet, developing countries are highly affected due to the process of harvesting and storing the crops.See National Cancer Institute website https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/aflatoxins
U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 5 billion people in developing countries are at risk of exposure to aflatoxin through food consumption. The effect of this exposure over time can lead to an increase in aflatoxin B1, which causes liver cancer in humans. Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa estimated 25,200 and 155,000 cases of liver cancer every year due to the exposure of aflatoxin. In addition, exposure to aflatoxins can have a harmful effect on the development and growth of children. The lack of nutrients can increase the risk of children's death from communicable diseases. "Environmental Health Perspectives – Breaking the Mold: New Strategies for Fighting Aflatoxins." Accessed December 13, 2017. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/121-A270/
Aflatoxin contamination effects the economy of the country. Contaminated crops cannot be sold in the market for profit, which results in the lowers the national and domestic markets worth and business. Furthermore, developing countries have difficulty entering the international market to sell their products due to the strict regulation implemented by other countries. Yet, underdeveloped countries like Africa cannot afford expensive inspection strategies to meet these standards. Those who are rejected will have to lower the price for their crops or let it go to waste for animal consumption. Lastly, aflatoxin affects individual's availability and accessibility of food. Farmers and manufacturers lose their source of income if they cannot sell their crops and cannot buy the necessary food for the family. As a result, aflatoxin has a negative impact on individual's health, country's economy, and food security in developing countries such as Africa. See PACA website http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/10/PACA_aflatoxin-impacts-paper1.pdf
Aflatoxin exposure is significant to address the Millennium Developmental Goals to reduce child mortality, ensure environmental sustainability, and global partnership for development.
B. Current Policy/Governance/Law/Regulation: (local and national regulations) The FDA has guidelines for the levels of aflatoxins that is acceptable in human and animal. The recommended aflatoxin level for human food is 20 parts per billion (ppb), with milk being the only exception of being at 0.5 ppb. Animals can be fed with crops of the same aflatoxin level as humans. "Cornell University Department of Animal Science." Accessed December 12, 2017. http://poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/toxicagents/aflatoxin/aflatoxin.html.
The requirements for international trade includes four stages: 1) sampling and analysis of crops 2) monitoring and inspecting the crops, 3) use the contaminated crops to feed animals, 4) checking for the quality of the products. See European Food Safety Authority website https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/aflatoxins-food.
The joint collaboration of the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) about the necessity of "private sector-led initiatives" to better regulate aflatoxin in the marketplace. The first approach is the need for stricter individual regulation and internal guidelines. The second method is using a "sector-driven model" to supply acknowledgments and increase prices for crops to cultivators. The third method is the "farm to fork approach" which is used to aid farmers in successful farming strategies and avoid aflatoxin contamination. The fourth approach is using research accommodations to test and sample the produces early. The last method is to generate additional collaboration with private sector actors and manufacturer companies for an efficient infrastructure. "Mitigating the Consequences of Aflatoxin in Africa." Accessed December 12, 2017. http://www.cta.int/en/article/2016-10-21/mitigating-the-consequences-of-aflatoxin-in-africa.html.
C. Proposed Policy Making/Policy Solution:
A potential solution has been prompted by the African Union Commission (AUC) within the PACA department to assist the government in changing the control of aflatoxin in Africa. PACA has operated with RECS, private sector and other stakeholders to implement an improve regulation of aflatoxin policy for Sub-Saharan Africa. Together they have formulated a country plan that can be achieved through gathering evidence, validating the plan, and build a government faculty to operate the proposal. See PACA website http://www.aflatoxinpartnership.org/uploads/PACA%20Country%20Plan%20Approach-with%20ToC.pdf
This country plan approach by the PACA and AUC displays an in-depth mechanism to serve on a larger scale seems promising. However, some changes can be made to provide services assistance to treat individuals who are already affected in aflatoxin prevalence regions. The plans need to focus on prevention and treatments for farmers in poor regions who lack the resources to combat aflatoxin contamination. Since Africa consists of different regions with diverse cultural backgrounds and customs, the need for a smaller and local consultation is necessary. This can be possible through having specific region representatives that can deliberately educate farmers of the best approaches for pre-harvesting and post-harvesting of crops. The representatives will be sent out weekly to monitor the situation in each region and collect observations and surveys from farmers who receive the educational presentations. The representatives can respond to immediate small outbreaks of foodborne illnesses through detecting and recording the places that have been expose to aflatoxins. The information can be available to the public through newspaper or just through words by mouth to spread the message about the levels of aflatoxin exposures. For a follow up, a report can be documented by all representatives from different regions of Africa and submit to the health ministry of the country for further research and analysis. Another approach that can be done is through the application of collaboration of new organization with existing ones. An example is the Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG). FERG comprise of worldwide professionals in diverse field correlating to global foodborne illnesses epidemiology. See WHO website http://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/foodborne-diseases/ferg/en/
Groups such as FERG is a reliable resource to understand the distinctive types of outcomes foodborne illnesses can cause. Furthermore, they can be linked with new organizations that are focus on treating and prevention to aid farmers in medicine, supplies or resources to help improve agriculture and treat aflatoxin illness. The focus can be providing health services like reducing the oncogenic outcome of aflatoxin by providing infected individuals with blocking agents such as Oltipraz and Sulforaphane.3 Also, these organization can provide educational pamphlet in different languages, so people can understand when to get treatment and how to get treatments early. The pamphlet can include information about the different ways aflatoxin can harm an individual and how to prevent further exposure. The payments for these type of medication can be done by monthly payments with an interest. This way the organizations will continue to make revenue and provide the health care services. In addition, for those patients who cannot afford their medicines, they will work off their payment by providing volunteer services to help destroy or clean up
contaminated regions. Reducing aflatoxin exposure and contamination contributes to the country's Millennium Developmental Goals to reduce child mortality, ensure environmental sustainability, and global partnership for development ushering further support from multiple countries. As a result, funding can come from multiple countries to support these new collaboration organization in the fight to end aflatoxin.
D. Possible Research to Address the Problem:
More research for application of "aflatoxin- resistant" implanting resources is mandated to address aflatoxin in developing worlds. This research can make equipment and material more affordable and accessible to poor farmers.3 Other alternative uses of aflatoxin that mandates further research include ethanol production, wet milling industry, and animal feeding. The first alternative that warrants more research is a process that transforms contaminated corn to ethanol. See ASM website http://aem.asm.org/content/43/4/961.full.pdf
This is necessary as it provides another way to reused crops that cannot be consumed by humans or used for animal feedings. Furthermore, this method can supply a small amount of economy back to the country through marketing ethanol. However, more research can be conducted to understand the procedure and guarantee for successful results. Another research to address aflatoxin is acknowledged by the FDA through the use of wet-milling. This method is used to remove the toxin out of corn products. Corn is used in massive portions of commodities that can be health hazards to humans. Therefore, it is needed to conduct research to understand new approaches to remove the contaminant out of crops such as corn and nuts. More research like this can create better prevention methods for other mycotoxins related contamination, not just aflatoxin. CRA Food Safety Information Papers: Mycotoxins https://corn.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/mycotoxins.pdf
The last research that needs continuous research is the use of contaminated crops to feed animals. It has been shown that animals can tolerate higher levels of aflatoxins above 20 ppb. However, research needs to regenerate this idea if it will affect human's consumption of these animals. More research is necessary to determine the altering amount to ensure that consumers and animals are not at permanent risk. See FDA website https://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/ucm074703.htm
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