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Publication | 12 April 2019

Mycotoxins, Food Safety and Security in Sub-Saharan Africa

Contamination of food and feed by fungi and the mycotoxins they produce are of common occurrence in Africa. Lifelong exposure of a large proportion of Sub-Saharan African population to food borne mycotoxins is a reality and a serious problem. Countries in Africa lack capacity to enforce food safety regulations, and so face frequent rejection of exportable products leading to economic loss.

Improving food safety is an essential element for improving food security. A brief review is made on some issues concerning food security, namely sustainable agriculture, disruptions in the food supply chain and trade. We highlight a major agricultural threat in Sub-Saharan countries which are mycotoxins. There are different types of toxicity. These toxins are among the most potent substances known to pose acute toxicity, chronic health risks due to hepatotoxicity, immunosuppression, nephrotoxicity, estrogenic, teratogenic and/or carcinogenic effects. Prolonged exposure has been linked with liver cancer, poor nutrient absorption, retarded infant growth, malnutrition and immunosuppression.

Although the literature on mycotoxins is abundant in reports investigating cellular mechanisms, cellular toxicity, associated pathology and animal performance, studies on the effect of these compounds on general sub nutrition and on the gastrointestinal tract of animals and humans is limited. The fight against mycotoxins involves the whole food chain namely the critical control points.

An innovative and promising solution of technological biocontrol for reducing mycotoxins is arising and under test. However, we question on the impact of this technology on biodiversity, food safety and nutrition security and enhance the need for more studies in order to evaluate its potential utilization.