Members of the National Steering Committee for Aflatoxin Control, has met to review the draft National Policy for Aflatoxin Control in Food and Feed.
It is being spearheaded by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI) and is expected to guide the country on how to address Aflatoxins and touches on research, awareness creation, consumer protection and surveillance issues.
Several laboratory analysis of food samples showed the presence of high levels of aflatoxins in some major food staples in the country.
The formulation of the National Policy and a Technical Regulations for Aflatoxins control have become necessary in view of the adverse impact that they were having on food safety and on the health of people, Dr Rose Omari, Senior Research Officer, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research- Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI) told the Ghana News Agency in an interview in Accra.
Aflatoxins are naturally-occurring toxic metabolites produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus that affect the safety of food and feed in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, including Ghana.
They are likely to be produced when crops are exposed to extreme conditions such as high temperatures, drought, high moisture, high oxygen concentration, and insect infestation.
In Ghana, aflatoxins were detected in groundnuts, maize, melon seeds (agushie), chili powder, corn flour and dough, rice, sorghum, millet, and groundnut paste.
The European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed has reported the presence of high levels of aflatoxins in Ghana’s export products such as maize, groundnuts, banku mix, groundnut paste, khebab powder, agushi, and powdered pepper and spices, for which reason the products were rejected.
Animal and fish products could also be contaminated with aflatoxins if livestock, poultry and fish (cultured fish) are fed with contaminated feed, expert have indicated.
Dr Omari explained to the GNA on the sideline of the review workshop that the production of aflatoxins could occur during the pre-harvest and post-harvest periods and during storage of crops when high levels of moisture and temperature conditions create a suitable environment for the rapid growth of moulds, which in turn metabolise and produce aflatoxins.
Furthermore, physical damage to crops during weeding, harvesting, drying, transportation, storage and marketing can cause decay that enhances the production of aflatoxins.
She said Ghana had some standards for some foods, which also lacked a technical regulations, and were not enough for the many foods that were being consumed in the country.
“The goal of the policy is to protect human and animal health and also increase income for farmers”. So our food will have very low levels of aflatoxins to affect our health and our animals, and our food will be safe from contamination”.
She said one of the main functions of the Aflatoxin Committee was to assist in the development of the policy formulation for aflatoxin control and also help in the implementation of the policy.
“So this meeting is to enable the Committee to review and make inputs in the draft Policy and fine-tune the policy, which would guide the country, and consumers of food that are contaminated.
The policy would also address general surveillance of aflatoxins and its health implication including; diseases like liver cancer, awareness creation and resource mobilisation plan as to how funding could be sourced to fund activities of aflatoxin activities and control.
After the review, the comments would be incorporated and the document would in October be reviewed by other stakeholders, after, which a STEPRI team would draft an Action Plan for its implementation.
Later, the policy would be submitted to the Ministers of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovations, Food and Agriculture, Health, and Trade and Industry for endorsement, and acceptance.
Dr Omari said the policy was expected to be finalised in December and submitted by March for Cabinet approval for its implementation.