Harvested maize in  Pacassa village, Tete province, Mozambique

Harvested maize in Mozambique. Aflatoxins in maize and other staple crops pose significant public health risks in many developing countries (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Earlier this week, on Tuesday 5 November 2013, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) launched a set of 19 research briefs on managing aflatoxins for improved food safety.

Aflatoxins are naturally occurring carcinogenic by-products of fungi on grains and other crops like maize and groundnuts. They pose a significant threat to public health in many developing countries and are also a barrier to the growth of domestic and international commercial markets for food and feed.

Acute exposure to high levels of aflatoxins can be fatal while chronic exposure to aflatoxins has been linked to liver cancer and is estimated to cause as many as 26,000 deaths annually in sub-Saharan Africa. Aflatoxins have also been linked to stunted growth in children and immune system disorders.

The set of briefs – Aflatoxins: Finding Solutions for Improved Food Safety – provides different perspectives on aflatoxin risks and solutions. The analyses fall under four broad themes:

  1. what is known about the health risks from aflatoxins;
  2. how to overcome market constraints to improved aflatoxin control by building new market channels and incentives;
  3. what is the international policy context for taking action in developing countries; and
  4. what is the state of research on new aflatoxin control technologies, including new methods for aflatoxin detection, crop breeding, biological control, food storage and handling, and postharvest mitigation.

The briefs are co-edited by Laurian Unnevehr, senior research fellow at IFPRI and theme leader for value chains for enhanced nutrition in the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), and Delia Grace, veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and theme leader for agriculture-associated diseases in A4NH.

Access the individual research briefs

Download the full set of research briefs (PDF)

Read more about ILRI’s research projects on aflatoxins: