Aflatoxin is a hazardous toxin produced by fungi that grow on a wide variety of crops, including staples like maize and groundnuts. Consuming aflatoxin-contaminated food can result in impaired nutrient absorption, organ failure, cancer, and—in children—stunting. In addition, aflatoxin can lead...
This Month on Agrilinks: Food Safety Into Focus
When it comes to agricultural development, ensuring that the world has sufficient amounts of food to eat is not enough. Work must also be done to ensure that the food the world eats is safe for consumption. Food Safety refers to the production, handling, preparation and storage of food in ways that maintain food quality and prevent foodborne illness. This month on Agrilinks, we examine steps that are being taken by experts in the field of food safety to help spread knowledge of steps that households and farmers can take and apply to ensure the safety of their harvest and livestock and prevent post-harvest loss.
Food safety has become a rising priority under the Feed the Future initiative amidst growing evidence that contaminated staple foods may cause substantial harm to human health and child development. Moreover, as development practitioners strive to promote nutrient-dense yet perishable foods, such as fruits, vegetables and animal-sourced foods (e.g., meat, milk, eggs and fish) to achieve nutrition and income gains, the risk of substantial harm through foodborne illness is even greater. Improving the sanitary and phytosanitary quality of food can also open new local and export market opportunities that enhance profitability.
To kick the month off, we’d like to highlight a few key resources and posts from the Agrilinks archives.
Agrilinks has hosted various webinars on food safety. In January 2017, Addressing Food Safety in Animal Source Foods for Improved Nutrition detailed the key food safety issues related to livestock production and animal-source foods and their potential impact on human health and nutrition. In our most recent webinar, researchers from Purdue University educated our audience about a project funded by USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance to address the dual issues of credit and post-harvest loss among southern Tanzania's smallholder maize farmers.
The issues of mycotoxins and aflatoxins in relation to food safety have been covered extensively on Agrilinks. We hosted a webinar called Breaking the Mold: How Mycotoxins Impact Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, where experts discussed the science behind mycotoxins and their health impact as well as how to integrate mycotoxin responses into agricultural development programming.
In addition to this webinar, Agrilinks has featured many blog posts about the dangers of these toxins.
- This post by Felicia Wu and John Leslie gives a good introduction to mycotoxins and aflatoxins for those who may not be familiar with what they are and how they manifest.
- In this video, Sophie Walker, Chief of Party of AflaStop, describes the testing of a variety of storage and drying devices to evaluate technologies to impede aflatoxin grain contamination on the smallholder farm.
- Mycotoxins: Invisible Toxins with Visible Impacts describes the serious health implications they have for humans and livestock and the approaches that are needed to combat mycotoxins in these complex environments.
- The Feed the Future Peanut and Mycotoxin Innovation Lab post What If Aflatoxin Glowed? New Technology Makes Toxin Visible for No-Cost Testing describes a project to create a rapid, low-cost method that may be used in developing countries as a means for aflatoxin detection.
The Feed the Future Peanut and Mycotoxin Innovation Lab isn’t the only activity doing great work in the realm of food safety. The Food Safety Network, a U.S. Government interagency partnership to help build food safety capacity worldwide, provides science-based support to strengthen animal health, plant health and food safety, otherwise known as the SPS system, in developing countries. The FSN provided a synopsis of a session that they hosted at the Market Systems Global Learning and Evidence Exchange event in Dakar, Senegal last year.
On Agrilinks, we have covered the link between food safety and markets and trade. One such post details why failure to comply with international food safety regulations and standards negatively affects trade and income. This training video explains how better harvest and post-harvest practices in Ghana enables farmers to better market their aflatoxin-safe nuts.
In this post, we featured a video created by the Collaborative Crop Research Program to help farmers manage aflatoxins in groundnuts. The video, aimed at smallholder farmers, was translated into ten local languages.
Barakat Mahmoud of the USAID Bureau for Food Security, a food safety expert, has a food safety blog on Agrilinks called Food for Thought. In Mahmoud’s piece on how food safety can enhance global food security and development, he discusses the link between food safety and globalization of the food supply, rapid urbanization, complexity of food preparation, increasing numbers of at-risk people, changes in food consumption, climate change and the emergence of new or antimicrobial-resistant pathogens. In this post, Mahmoud describes agricultural water problem of contamination and how that problem is addressed in the Food Safety Modernization Act. Mahmoud gives an overview of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement and its importance in this post.
We look forward to receiving your food safety contributions this month. Stay tuned for more resources on the topic throughout March!