Tanzania eyes new tech to fight aflatoxins

Mr Abdou Konlambigue, ATTC managing director.

What you need to know:

  • Known as Aflasafe TZ, the technology can reduce the poisonous chemical’s contamination in food by 80 to 90 per cent.

Arusha. Tanzania will soon join other African countries in rolling out new technology that will contain cancer-causing aflatoxins.

Known as Aflasafe TZ, the technology can reduce the poisonous chemical’s contamination in food by 80 to 90 per cent.

Reduction of food and animal feed contamination by the poisonous aflatoxins will make the human food, in particular, safe for consumption and meet standards for export.

The technology has been developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture through USAID support.

“Its registration with the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) is almost complete,” said Ms Catherine Njuguna, a communication expert with the organisation.

The IITA-led Aflatoxins Technology Transfer and Commercialization Initiative (aTTC) will facilitate its commercialization “to ensure it is widely available and accessible to the farming communities”.

Ms Njuguna said commercialization of Aflasafe products will be undertaken with technical support from Dalberg Global Development Advisors and Chemonics International.

A strategy to guide the commercialisation has been designed, outlining market projections, manufacturing feasibility and distribution scenarios.

“It also looks at the investor’s landscape as well as enabling interventions required to increase the uptake of Aflasafe in the country,” she said.

IITA and its partners are organising an investors’ forum in Dar es Salaam today (Monday) to discuss the business opportunities available in the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of Alfasafe products in the country.

The meeting brings together private sector players, policy makers, researchers, the farming community and development partners.

“This meeting is very important in efforts to reduce aflatoxin contamination in Tanzania after more than six years of research,” said Mr Abdou Konlambigue, aTTC managing director. He added that the technology is already registered and commercialized in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal and Gambia.

It emerged recently that Africa is losing a staggering $670 million annually in exports due blocked European market because of aflatoxin contaminated food exports.

Aflatoxin, a cancer-causing poisonous chemical which grows in grains, also contaminates about 40 per cent of food commodities traded locally in the East African Community (EAC) bloc.

Early last month in Nairobi, the EAC launched a regional programme to prevent and control the menace which it says impacted on the region’s efforts for foods security besides posing health hazards to people.

Aflatoxin, which has no taste, colour, or smell, is a deadly toxin. It is a known carcinogen responsible for liver cancer in people exposed to the poison through consumption of contaminated food while extreme poisoning causes instant death. It also causes irreversible stunting in children and lowered body immunity. Livestock are also affected. Another impact of aflatoxin is loss of trade.

Aflatoxin is produced by the naturally occurring Aspergillus fungi found in soils and infects crops, especially maize and groundnut, while in the field. Aflasafe is made up of fungus too, but of strains that can effectively out-compete and displace those that produce aflatoxin, thus reducing aflatoxin contamination by 80-90 per cent.