A national policy on aflatoxins control in food and feed has been launched to create awareness and build the capacity of agricultural value chain operators to produce raw materials devoid of aflatoxin contamination.
It will also facilitate the development and enforcement of legislation and standards for aflatoxin control, strengthen research and technology transfer on aflatoxins and develop mechanisms for strengthening consumer protection, while increasing domestic and international trade in aflatoxin-safe food products.
There was also the validation of a draft report which outlined priority areas for resource mobilisation and investment in the implementation of the policy.
The policy, which was launched in Accra yesterday, has a five-year implementation plan (2021-2025) and requires major inputs from the ministries of Health, Food and Agriculture, Trade and Industry and Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI).
The policy was developed by the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-STEPRI), in collaboration with the Alliance for Green Revolution Africa (AGRA), with support from the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF).
The Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Kwaku Afriyie, said aflatoxins were produced by some species of mould which infected food products such as maize and groundnuts under favourable conditions.
He said high temperature and humidity and bad hygienic practices were some of the factors that often predisposed food products to mould and subsequently aflatoxin infection.
“In the country, although there are no data causally linking aflatoxin to liver cancer, the cases are increasing.
“In 2020, about 3,453 people suffered from liver cancer, one of the commonest cancers among men, representing 21.1 per cent of all cancers,” he added.
Dr Afriyie also said aflatoxins posed a barrier to trade and market development due to the rejection of contaminated products by buyers, including the food industry and importing countries.
“Ghana loses about 18 per cent of maize annually due to aflatoxin contamination. However, it is relieving to learn that aflatoxins contamination can be reduced and possibly eliminated using various techniques, including simple practices such as sorting the mouldy grains from the good ones,” he said.
The minister commended the CSIR, especially the STEPRI, for its leadership in the policy development processes.
A Lead Scientist at CSIR-STEPRI, Dr Rose Omari, said strong public-private dialogue and economic data and evidence helped in identifying resources and investment required to bring the policy to life.
“Based on this work, which has been anchored on strong dialogue and consultation with national authorities and stakeholders, a draft report which outlines priority areas for resource mobilisation and investment to control aflatoxins has been produced,” she said.
For his part, the Director of the CSIR-Food Research Institute, Dr Charles Tortoe, called on stakeholders to intensify advocacy on the effects of aflatoxins in food and feed and also find ways to mitigate them.