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Crop Biotech Update

Widespread Aflatoxin Contamination in Maize

January 21, 2011

Researchers from CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute are determining the extent of aflatoxin contamination in maize from farmers' fields to postharvest sites and markets. They discovered that aflatoxin contamination is more widespread than previously thought, occurring in both eastern and south western sites of Kenya.

"The prevalence of aflatoxins in maize in various regions of the country, including low-risk areas, underscores the importance of raising awareness of the chances and consequences of chronic exposure to the toxin among producers, consumers, traders, and vendors," said Steve Collins, country director and chief of party, ACDI/VOCA. "The serious economic and health implications of aflatoxins also highlight the critical need to provide farmers and consumers with affordable strategies to reduce contamination and incentives to use existing mitigation technologies, new uses for contaminated grain, and alternative sources of food when maize is unsafe to eat."

In eastern study sites, 31% of samples collected from farmers' fields had aflatoxin levels greater than 10 parts per billion (ppb)—the maximum level allowed by the Kenyan government, as well as the United Nations World Food Programme, in maize that is intended for human consumption. In south western sites, 40% of samples from farmers' fields had aflatoxin levels above the legal limit of 10 ppb.

The International Food Policy Research Institute press release is at http://www.ifpri.org/pressrelease/new-study-documents-spread-aflatoxins-kenya.