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To reduce the amount of aflatoxin in some red pepper products, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Resources is planning to apply Aflasafe by the middle of next year. The technology will come from Nigerian laboratories.
Aflasafe is a technology first developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and IITA and its partners are spearheading its adoption in Africa. It is a bio-control product developed using the same family of fungi as those that produce aflatoxins, which do not produce the poison and are further able to outcompete and displace the aflatoxin producing fungi. The Aflasafe TZ is made from country-specific strains of the fungi.
Studies show that the application of aflasafe TM in farmers’ fields reduced aflatoxin contamination by more than 90 percent, and birds fed with aflasafe TM-treated maize recorded less mortality and had a higher feed conversion ratio.
The technology is currently in use in Nigeria, Kenya, and The Gambia. Nine other African countries are at various levels of developing their country specific strains. These include Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Burundi.
Dr. Eyasu Abrha State Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Resources told Capital that the technology will be applied after new country specific strain is developed.
“Our red pepper is popular so we must get rid of the alfatoxin and this Nigerian laboratory will provide good Aflasafe technology.”
He added that the new quality checking laboratory will be built in Addis Ababa at a cost of USD10 million next year.
But experts said the ministry should look at the cost and impact study before it applies the technology
Addisu Alemayehu, a senior expert in field of spices, herbs and aromatic products said, “aflatoxin is not coming from the pre harvest process, we have to look at our storage, transport services and on the other side we have to look at how it will increase the production of farmers beside its affordability. If it takes five years or more, we should look another option to get a quick solution.’’
Produced by the fungus Aspergillusflavus, aflatoxins are naturally occurring fungal toxins abundant in the soil that contaminate food products such as maize, groundnut, as well as other crops. They are carcinogenic to man and cause immune-suppression, cancer, and growth reduction in animals. In some cases, consumption of high levels of aflatoxins has resulted in deaths of animals and human beings. In Kenya, for instance, consumption of maize contaminated with aflatoxins resulted in about 200 deaths between 2004 and 2006.
Hot pepper powder worth ten million USD has been returned to Ethiopia from European markets when it was found to have unsafe levels of Aflatoxins and Ochratoxins during testing at entrance laboratories in European countries.
Last year Ethiopian hot pepper was banned in the UK last fiscal year until it could successfully pass quality control tests and the Ethiopian Embassy in London began working jointly with hot pepper importers to improve the product. Germany also blocked a large amount of hot pepper from entering their borders.
Ethiopia harvests the 8th most red pepper in the world.