Aflatoxin is a silent killer – GSA

The Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) is rolling out a media sensitisation campaign on aflatoxin claiming it is becoming a silent killer that needs to be nibbed in the bud.

Mr Peter Martey Agbeko, GSA Head of Public Relations said the National Aflatoxin Sensitization and Management (NASAM) team recognised the media as a strategic partner in the fight against the debilitating effects of aflatoxin.

He disclosed this in Accra, when the team from the GSA called on the Management of the Ghana News Agency (GNA) to solicit the Agency’s collaboration for a public sensitization campaign on aflatoxins.

Aflatoxin is a poison produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, which resides in the soil and infects crops in the field.

It contaminates about 65 percent of maize and groundnut crops.

He said Aflatoxin can contaminate the entire food value chain, and that “continuous eating aflatoxin-contaminated foods and feed decreases productivity in people and animals, and can sometimes cause death,” he said.

He said agro-products including; cereals, legumes and fruits, fish and eggs, which were contaminated with aflatoxins compromised food security, health and trade in many developing countries including Ghana.

It could cause liver cancer, suppression of the immune system and retarded growth and development in children among other health problems.

Mr. Agbeko said International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and partners, had developed Aflasafe, an Agro-product that contains native non-toxic strains of Aspergillus flavus that out-compete toxin-producing ones when applied in the field.

One application of Aflasafe progressively overwhelms and displaces poisonous types of aflatoxins, thus creating a cumulatively safer environment for the crop after season.

He explained that when applied properly and combined with good agricultural practices, Aflasafe would effectively control aflatoxins during crop development, harvesting and storage.

He said the GSA, was encouraging farmers to use Aflasafe as it was a purely biological pesticide, which was safe and ensured significant lower aflatoxin contamination in food and feed, guaranteed healthier farm families and enhanced income.

Again, Aflasafe would ensure productive animals and increase profitability from poor trade, and create more trade opportunities with produce meeting market requirements.

Mr Agbeko said the GSA with funding from the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was currently undertaking a National Aflatoxin Sensitisation Management Project, with partners including; the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

This, he said involved a pipeline approach that tackled the problem from the crop, storage to marketing, and underscored the critical role the media played in risk communication and public education.

He encouraged the GNA to get on board to intensify public education on the need to reject food and products contaminated with aflatoxin, and to encourage farmers to observe good agricultural practices.

Mr Albert Kofi Owusu, GNA General Manager said the media had maintained its drive of informing and educating the citizenry on health and developmental issues as a true partner of development.

He said the Agency’s health reporters over the years contributed to public education on aflatoxins, through their sustained reportage, and were willing to deepen the partnership with other stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of the campaign.

Source: GNA

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