The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has said 389 Nigerian agriculture export shipments have been rejected by the European Union between 1980-2016 even though 39 per cent of it was as a result of aflatoxin contamination.
The United Nations body further revealed that its 2016 study showed that the country recorded 2,437 new cases of aflatoxin-induced liver cancer yearly, possibly leading to the yearly financial loss of up to $997 million.
Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize (corn), groundnut cottonseed and tree nuts and under favorable conditions like high temperature and moisture, they contaminate a large number of food commodities and regional crops during pre and post-harvest.
FAO Representative in Nigeria, Fred Kafeero, disclosed this in Abuja, at the ‘Inception workshop on technical support to aflatoxin management and mitigation in Nigeria’.
Kafeero, who was represented by the Assistant Country Representative, Dr Abubakar Suleiman, stressed that food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, producers and consumers and that everyone has a role to play from farm to table to ensure the food consumed is safe and healthy for a better tomorrow.
To this extent, he disclosed that FAO is launching a new project aimed at tackling aflatoxin contamination in food, disclosing that the project would last till August 2022 and would be implemented in four pilot states of Kano, Kaduna, Oyo and the FCT to the tune of $300,000.
Abubakar noted that the project would contribute to Nigeria’s efforts at putting in place effective food safety and quality control systems that are not only key to safeguarding the health and well-being of people, but also to fostering economic development and improving livelihoods by promoting access to domestic, regional and international markets.
He pointed out that aflatoxin is a huge threat to food and economic security as it undermines poverty eradication in Africa, adding that the problem is so complex that it straddles agriculture, food security and nutrition, trade and health sectors.
Also, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ernest Umakhihe, in a keynote address lamented that aflatoxins contamination in food is responsible for the stunting of 4.4 million under-five children across the country.
Umakhihe, who was represented by the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Karima Babangida, noted that aflatoxins are known to cause liver cancer and other chronic health effects as well as death.