by Ejidiah Wangui
NAIROBI, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Aflatoxin infestation continues to be a threat to Kenya's food security as confirmed by a recent study by Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
The research concluded that most Kenyan households were consuming unprecedented levels of aflatoxin, a
carcinogenic substance, hence putting their lives in danger while hampering efforts to reduce the country's growing cancer burden.
The study focused on maize, sorghum and milk, which are critical staples in both rural and urban households.
Led by Johana Lindahl of ILRI, the researchers also attributed poor development among children living in Dagoretti and Korogocho slums of Nairobi to consumption of cereals infested with aflatoxin.
"Over 41 percent of children who consumed cereals infested with aflatoxin were found to be stunted and underweight," noted the research findings.
Of concern is the lack of awareness on the dangers of consuming aflatoxin-infested staples as many Kenyans residing in these areas purchase flours from kiosks where storage and safety are not given priority.
Mary Odhiambo, a mother of three and a resident of Dagoretti, one of the regions where the research was conducted, confessed her ignorance of aflatoxin, saying it was an alien term that hardly swayed her choice of maize flour or sorghum.
"What else would I feed my children with, if not porridge and ugali, most of us here can not afford any other food apart from maize and sorghum, we hope the government will do the necessary to safeguard our livelihoods," noted Mary.
Researchers from Kenya, Japan, Sweden and the United States have expressed worries that the aflatoxin menace was slowly turning into a disaster that threatened millions of lives.
They analyzed samples collected from over 400 food retailers in Dagoretti and Korogocho.
The researchers also noted that exposure to aflatoxin is rampant in raw milk that is heavily consumed by low-income urban households.
To minimize infestation, researchers urged the government and private sector to invest in modern storage technologies and promote awareness targeting small holder farmers.
"Farmers, traders and the general public need to be educated on the dangers of aflatoxin to the environment and human health," said the researchers
Their findings correlated with a recent study conducted by Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) that revealed a quarter of pregnant women in Western Kenya were consuming toxic levels of aflatoxin.