• CAS says aflatoxin affects cereals such as maize, beans, wheat and to some extent, milk after animals have been fed with contaminated maize.
• Hotspot areas of aflatoxin are Machakos, Makueni, Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Tana River, Taita Taveta, Kwale, parts of Kajiado and Kilifi counties.
Farmers have been advised to use Aflasafe to reduce contamination of aflatoxin right from the soil.
Agriculture CAS Andrew Tuimur on Monday said aflatoxin is found in the soil and farmers should start controlling it from the beginning by using the product.
"I encourage farmers to use Aflasafe when growing maize and to also store their maize well because when maize is stored under moist conditions, it encourages the growth of aflatoxin," Tuimur said.
He also urged millers to buy good maize that is free from aflatoxin.
“The Kenya Bureau of Standards should position their staff so that they are able to check under what conditions the millers are storing maize, and sample them occasionally. This will reduce aflatoxin which can also cause cancer,” the chief administrative secretary said.
He explained that aflatoxin affects cereals such as maize, beans, wheat and to some extent, milk after animals have been fed with contaminated maize.
In September, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri commissioned the Aflasafe Manufacturing Plant at Kalro-Katumani in Machakos county. It is currently selling at Sh125 per kilo and a farmer needs four kgs per acre.
The product manufactured is trademarked as AflasafeKE01 to manage aflatoxin and has been developed by researchers from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture with the support of the US government.
Kalro director general Eliud Kireger said with the ongoing short rains, post-harvest handling will be a problem and this can increase levels of aflatoxin. This could be because the drying of maize will be a challenge.
He explained that aflatoxin is a toxin produced by a naturally occurring fungus. There is a good and bad fungus.
Kireger said the fungus manifests itself in the areas where the temperatures are above 25 degrees Celsius, mainly warm areas.
In Kenya, some of the hotspots of aflatoxin contamination include Machakos, Makueni, Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Tana River, Taita Taveta, Kwale, parts of Kajiado and Kilifi counties.
“This is why maize being grown in the Galana Kulalu food security project must be grown using the product to ensure it is safe,” he told the Star during an interview.
In 2010, more than 2.3 million bags of maize were condemned and destroyed because of high aflatoxin contamination levels, costing the government several million shillings.
In 2004, at least 120 Kenyans died after consuming food infected with aflatoxin.
Kireger said the fungus that produces aflatoxin is in the soil and when you harvest maize and don’t dry it properly, the concentration (since this is a living thing) continues producing more under those damp conditions.
“When it produces more toxin, the levels of the toxin in the maize increases,” he said.
The level of toxin allowed in Kenya is below 10 parts per billion, and maize with this level is fit for human consumption.
“This is why farmers must use Aflasafe. We are encouraging the government to subsidise fertiliser and Aflasafe for farmers. For those areas which are growing maize, where there is a serious problem of aflatoxin, it should be a requirement that farmers use the product so that the maize is safe,” the director general said.
He assured farmers that if the product is continuously used for three years, aflatoxin can be eliminated from the farm for another five years.
“We have 157 metric tonnes of Aflasafe at Kalro-Katumani. We have identified a distributor to avail the material to farmers mainly from Eastern for use for the short rains crop. The product is applied during the flowering stage of the maize, “he said.
Edited by R.Wamochie