Over the past decade, there has been increasing recognition that
the quantity of food alone guarantees neither food security
nor adequate nutrition as measured by metrics such as hunger,
malnutrition, and stunting. Increasingly, policy and decision makers
understand the need to include nutritional aspects into improvements of food
systems. However, not as fully recognized is that unsafe, contaminated foods
thwart these efforts and maintain an unacceptable status quo in food insecurity,
poverty, and a range of health-related problems. All of this makes sustainable
development more challenging. In 2010, foodborne hazards caused 600 million
illnesses and 420,000 deaths across the world, with 40 percent of this disease
burden occurring among children under five years of age (Global Panel on
Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition 2016). Yet food safety has become
an important precondition for access to global food markets and, increasingly,
for high-value domestic markets in developing countries.
Contamination of food with mycotoxins is a prominent food safety
challenge in tropical regions. In Africa, the most important mycotoxins
from both a human health and an economic perspective are aflatoxins and
fumonisins (IARC 2015). Much of the public- and private-sector’s attention
has focused on aflatoxin due to its high pre- and postharvest contamination
potential, which causes widespread occurrence in diverse food matrices,
and its extreme toxicological significance to humans and animals, with
impacts on food safety, nutrition, public health, and markets and income.
Aflatoxin is a potent liver cancer–causing chemical, and there is mounting
evidence that aflatoxin interferes with nutrient absorption and plays a role
in inhibiting immune system function, potentially retarding child growth
(Turner et al. 2012). With respect to food processing and trade, much of
African produce is affected by aflatoxin, diminishing the region’s access to high-value export markets. Food-processing firms serving emerging domestic high-value markets are also testing for the contaminant in the
production chain. This chapter focuses on the nutritional and economic
consequences of aflatoxin contamination in Africa and on the opportunities
for its management.
Ayalew, A., Hoffmann, V., Lindahl, J. and Ezekiel, C.N. 2016. The role of mycotoxin contamination in nutrition: The aflatoxin story. In: Covic, N. and Hendriks, S.L. (eds), Achieving a nutrition revolution for Africa: The road to healthier diets and optimal nutrition. ReSAKSS Annual Trends and Outlook Report 2015. Washington, DC: IFPRI. pp. 98–114.