Mycotoxins: A Threat to Food Safety
This post was written by Nokutenda Chiyangwa and Andrew Muvishi and originally appeared in the Zimbabwe Herald.
Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Professor Amon Murwira has said that there is need to address the issue of mycotoxins, which are a threat to food safety in the country. Mycotoxins are dangerous fungi that can contaminate food. The subsistence farming populations in Zimbabwe are exposed to this fungi through maize consumption. Small children, below five years of age, are highly exposed to mycotoxins, which can have serious consequences on health and nutrition status. They can affect growth and development in children.
Speaking at a workshop that ran under the theme “Mycotoxins: The Hidden Threat to Human Health in Zimbabwe” in Harare last week, Prof. Murwira pointed out that mycotoxins have emerged as the most challenging food safety threats in the country, and research was necessary in order for the problem to be tackled using scientific methods.
“Food safety is one of the key issues in food and nutrition security and should be addressed through research so that our approach to problems is science-based. We are gathered here to tap some knowledge and evidence from the research work, which has been done on food safety threat presented by dangerous toxic chemicals, which are produced by fungi on food, toxins called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins have emerged as the most challenging threat to food safety, posing harm to human health and affecting food security and nutrition in affected communities. Research produced by academics in higher and tertiary institutions should be taken seriously and used in policy making to address national problems,” he said.
Prof. Murwira also said that mycotoxins are fatal to people’s health and can cause cancer and in some cases immediate death. “The impacts of consuming low doses of mycotoxins over a prolonged period can be far reaching, particularly in young people. Through research it has been recognized that some of these toxins can cause cancer and in children the toxins have been linked to impaired growth, underweight, and [can make them] more susceptible to infectious diseases in childhood and later in life,” Prof. Murwira stated.
The workshop was funded by Ghent University Global Minds fund in collaboration with Randox Food Diagnostics and the University of Zimbabwe.