CANCER

Queries as aflatoxin maize flour yet to be destroyed after recall from shelves

Aflatoxin is one of a group of naturally occurring poisonous substances known as mycotoxins and are produced by certain types of mould or fungi

In Summary

•Cancer lobby wants those implicated in aflatoxin scandal arrested and prosecuted

•According to WHO, Aflatoxin is considered a carcinogen, something that is capable of causing cancer

Questions have been raised over the government's commitment to fight aflatoxin contaminated maize flour in the market.

The Kenyan Network of Cancer Organisations now wants the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the office of the DPP to swiftly arrest and prosecute those implicated in the aflatoxin scandal with criminal negligence.

Aflatoxin is one of a group of naturally occurring poisonous substances known as mycotoxins and are produced by certain types of mould or fungi.

The toxic fungi that produce it thrive in warm and moist environments, growing in soil, decaying vegetation, hay and grains.

The World Health Organisation ranks it as the most poisonous of the mycotoxins and has gained the most attention because of its occurrence in food and its severe effects on human health.

“We are gravely concerned that following the recent reports of aflatoxin contaminated maize flour we did not see any destruction of the contaminated maize flour. instead the condemned products were swiftly put back on the shelves,” KENCO chairperson Catherine Wachira said yesterday.

The Kenyan Network of Cancer Organisations chairperson Catherine Wachira (in the middle) speaks to the press in Nairobi yesterday
The Kenyan Network of Cancer Organisations chairperson Catherine Wachira (in the middle) speaks to the press in Nairobi yesterday
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Last month, the Kenya Bureau of Standards recalled five brands of Ugali flour for failing to meet minimum standards.

The agency said Dola Maize Meal, Kifaru Maize Meal, Starehe Maize Meal, 210 Two Ten Maize Meal, and Jembe Maize Meal have been recalled after they tested to contain high levels of aflatoxin.

The agency directed the affected manufacturers are required to institute corrective actions before being confirmed by its officials failure to which the agency will revoke their licenses.

“Aflatoxin consumption has been linked to liver cancer and other non communicable diseases,” Wachira noted.

The WHO cautions that eating food with high levels of aflatoxin could have long term adverse effects on health and could be life threatening.

According to WHO, Aflatoxin is considered a carcinogen, something that is capable of causing cancer.

The WHO indicates the long-term effects of the toxin trigger cancer and cause immune deficiency and has been linked to high risk of liver and kidney cancer.

“The task force appointed to look at the systems and processes at the Kenya Bureau of Standards, will need to work with speed and diligence to ensure that the inefficiencies at KEBs, that have put Kenyans at risk, are dealt with once and for all.”

Consistent small doses can affect nutrition and the immune system. Children are considered particularly vulnerable and exposure can lead to stunted and delayed growth.

A study by the US National Centre for Biotechnology has also linked aflatoxin to impaired development of unborn babies in the womb.

The study says toxins pass from mother to the foetus through the placenta, or can also be passed through breast milk.

An association representing cereal millers in the country protested against the ban, questioning the validity of methods used to test aflatoxin levels.

In 2004, more than 80 Kenyans died from consuming maize that had been contaminated with a toxin-producing fungus. Another 180 were admitted to hospitals.