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Innovations for Production of Safe Food: Aflatoxin Control
Aflatoxins are potent fungal toxins that contaminate many agricultural products, including cereal grains, chilies, dry fruits, oilseeds and nuts. Milk can also be contaminated when livestock feed contains aflatoxin. Aflatoxin exposure at high levels can cause acute even fatal health outcomes while chronic exposure results in increased risk of developing liver cancer, impaired immune function, and malnutrition. Maize and groundnuts are the major sources of human exposure to aflatoxins in low‐ and middle‐income countries (LMICs) due to high consumption of these crops as staple foods.
USDA projects are supporting the adoption of bio-control products for aflatoxin control in Africa (Aflasafe®) and in Pakistan (AflaPak) helping reduce post-harvest losses and improving human health.
- Aflasafe® was initiated in Africa under public funding. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has led Aflasafe® development and commercialization efforts in Africa in strategic partnership with multiple organizations including USDA. Aflasafe is now manufactured by factories in Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal and Tanzania and is available for commercial use in nine countries for application to maize, groundnut and sorghum. Work on Aflasafe is on-going in 20 countries.
- AflaPak was developed in Pakistan as a public-partnership between USDA, the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), Rafhan Maize and the National Agricultural Research Council. AflaPak is being used for control of aflatoxin in maize. Farmers apply AflaPak to their plants two to three weeks before the flowering stage and before the toxic fungus strains can grow and colonize the maize. Scaling of bio-control products for use in other countries in South Asia is under discussion.
USDA-led biocontrol technology is based on non-aflatoxin producing strains of the fungus Aspergillus flavus outcompeting deadlier aflatoxin-producing strains. Non-aflatoxin producing strains native to the region that is being targeted for control of aflatoxins must be identified, isolated and tested for efficacy. Thus, each country that currently utilizes this technology must develop its own aflatoxin biocontrol product and test the effectiveness of the product on target crops. The development and delivery of these bio-control products builds on close collaboration between the USDA-Agricultural Research Service Aflatoxin Lab in Arizona and field-based partners.