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Varsity don wants State to test all foods for aflatoxin

Nuteez peanut butter was found unfit for human consumption due to elevated levels of aflotoxin / COURTESY

A local scientist wants the government to implement a policy that ensures all commodities for human consumption are routinely tested for aflatoxin to safeguard them from ingesting high levels which leads to liver diseases and cancer.

Dr Meshack Obonyo, the Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Egerton University said the recent detection of high levels of aflatoxin in the Nuteez Peanut Butter was a pointer to many more packaged foodstuffs with excess aflatoxins, which are slowly destroying consumers’ livers.

Obonyo said while consuming aflatoxin at high levels of 24.08 (+ 100g), was not expected to result in immediate death of an adult, its impact would be felt in the long run leading to gradual liver diseases such as cirrhosis, hepatitis and eventually liver cancer.

The University don said past research on aflatoxin carried by the department has revealed there were high levels of it in maize, sorghum, groundnuts and other grains consumed in the country.

Dr Obonyo was speaking during an interview with KNA at Egerton University.

He said aflatoxin was also found in milk because the animals consume grains which exceed the maximum required and such findings should be a serious cause for worry because food containing aflatoxin was a fertile ground for triggering cancers in the country.

Dr Obonyo said when there is excess aflatoxin in foodstuff part of it gets metabolised and cleared through urine, while the overload is retained in the body especially in the liver.

With continued consumption, the cycle repeats, and the levels build up to dangerous intensity as cells try to fight and detoxify the toxins they are damaged and destroyed triggering the liver to manufacture new cells to fight; the cycle continues and eventually leads to cancers.

He added that studies carried out on small rodents, mice and chicken on the effects of excess aflatoxin in the body, was a clear pointer to the human situation with a degree of certainty.

He said aflatoxins are poisonous carcinogens that are produced by certain moulds which grow in soils, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains which are not properly dried or harvested during the rainy season and frequent surveillance would reduce the increased cancer cases in the country.

He has been funded by the National government, through the National Research Fund to the tune of Sh 18 million to carry out further investigations to mitigate aflatoxins in peas and maize.

Source:KNA News Agency

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