On World Food Day 2019, we highlight a recent article by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute that summarizes the current state of knowledge on the role of livestock products for nutrition, with emphasis on the first 1000 days of life for individuals living in low-income countries.

Meat, milk and eggs are nutrient-rich products that could efficiently boost nutrient-poor diets either as part of the normal diet or if access is increased through interventions.

The article, published in the journal Animal Frontiers (Oct 2019), considers the nutritional importance of livestock products, the evidence base for their impact on health and nutrition, and the major externalities concerned with their production.

The authors note that promoting the intake of livestock products among resource-limited populations will require specific feasibility and sustainability studies to be conducted to ensure those foods are available and affordable to the target populations.

Alonso, S., Dominguez-Salas, P. and Grace, D. 2019. The role of livestock products for nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life. Animal Frontiers 9(4): 24–31. https://doi.org/10.1093/af/vfz033

Photo credit: An Ethiopian smallholder dairy farmer in the country’s Ghibe Valley (ILRI/Apollo Habtamu)

Maize contaminated with aflatoxin

Maize contaminated with aflatoxin (photo credit: IITA).

On 22 August 2013, the Biosciences eastern and central Africa hub at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and ILRI’s Food Safety and Zoonoses program hosted a half-day seminar on the current status on aflatoxin research and management at ILRI.

The open forum was an opportunity for different working groups to engage in discussions on the ongoing and planned research projects. The seminar brought together some 30 participants and a total of 13 presentations were given on aflatoxin assessment, diagnostics, analysis and mitigation.

Aflatoxins are highly toxic metabolites produced by the mould Aspergillus flavus and known to cause suppression of the immune system, liver disease and death in both humans and animals.

Aspergillus can grow in a wide range of foods and feed and thrive under favourable growth conditions of high temperature and moisture content. Aflatoxins from contaminated animal feed can end up in milk.

Three research studies that are part of the project Measuring and mitigating the risk of mycotoxins in maize and dairy products for poor consumers in Kenya (MyDairy project) were featured during the seminar.

The goal of the MyDairy project – the fifth of seven work packages of the FoodAfrica program – is to reduce the risk of mycotoxin contamination of staple crops in Kenya.

ILRI graduate fellow Anima Sirma presented an overview of her planned PhD research on risk assessment of aflatoxins in the Kenyan dairy value chain. The objectives of the study are to characterize the key risks of aflatoxins, identify the best control options and provide risk managers with information for decision-making.

Daniel Senerwa, another ILRI graduate fellow working towards a PhD, presented his proposed research that seeks to quantify the economic costs of aflatoxins in the Kenyan dairy value chain and examine the cost effectiveness of mitigation strategies.

Sirma and Senerwa are veterinary scientists and are undertaking their PhD studies at the University of Nairobi’s Faculty of Veterinary Sciences.

Sara Ahlberg, a dairy technologist from Finland and ILRI associate research officer, presented an overview of her work on a novel biological method to mitigate aflatoxin-induced risks in food and feed with dairy-derived proteins and peptides and lactic acid bacteria that have the ability to bind aflatoxins or inhibit the growth of mycotoxin-producing moulds.

Download the seminar report

Sale of raw milk at Port-Bouët market in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Sale of raw milk at Port-Bouët market in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (photo credit: ILRI/Sylvie Mireille Kouamé-Sina).

Every day, some 652 consumers of raw milk in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire are exposed to the risk of gastro-intestinal infection caused by harmful milk-borne bacteria, a study has shown. The study was done under the collaborative Safe Food, Fair Food project which is led by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

As is the case in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, milk in the informal or traditional market in Côte d’Ivoire is often sold raw. Many consumers routinely boil milk before drinking it, thus eliminating the health risk presented by milk-borne pathogens. However, some choose to consume the milk raw without any form of heat treatment. Unhygienic handling and storage of milk can also compromise the quality of raw milk sold to consumers.

Sylvie Mireille Kouamé-Sina, an Ivorian researcher at the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire (CSRS), led the study on bacterial risk assessment of informally marketed milk in Abidjan.

Just over half (51.6%) of sampled milk consumers in Abidjan reportedly drank their milk raw. The main disease-causing bacteria isolated from the marketed raw milk were E. coli, Enterococcus sp. and Staphylococcus aureus. These species were found in about 58% of samples of informally marketed milk.

A risk model revealed that consumers of raw milk in Abidjan have a 30% chance of drinking milk that is not microbiologically safe. For this reason, boiling of informally marketed milk is recommended as a risk-mitigation strategy against milk-borne pathogenic bacteria.

Kouamé-Sina presented these findings during a poster session at the 5th Congress of European Microbiologists (FEMS 2013) which was held on 21-25 July 2013 in Leipzig, Germany. The international conference brought together 2270 participants from 70 countries across all continents. Africa was represented by 27 participants from Côte d’Ivoire (1), Egypt (2), Nigeria (11), South Africa (12) and Tunisia (1).

Various topics on the latest advances in microbiology and biotechnology were discussed, including microbial food safety, trends in pathogen monitoring, viral ecology and evolution, new perspectives in bioenergy, and microbial interactions and climate change.

“The conference was a very interesting forum for thousands of international microbiologists from Europe and around the world to assess the current status of techniques used in microbiology,” said Kouamé-Sina.

“It was especially useful for young scientists as it allowed for interaction with leading researchers and exchange of knowledge and information on the latest advances in microbiology,” she added.

View the poster, Bacterial risk assessment of milk produced locally in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire


Read more about ILRI’s research on food safety in informal markets.

Fish market, Cairo, Egypt.

Fish on sale at a market in Cairo, Egypt (photo credit: WorldFish/Samuel Stacey).

A comprehensive toolkit developed by the Safe Food, Fair Food project is being used by WorldFish, a member of the CGIAR Consortium, to assess food safety in the farmed tilapia value chain in Egypt.

WorldFish is using the toolkit in a collaborative project on Rapid Integrated Assessment of Food Safety and Nutrition in Value Chains to better understand the dual demands of safety and nutrition in food value chains, in particular the farmed tilapia value chain.

Through the combined use of participatory methods of data collection (e.g. focus group discussions and direct observation) and collection of biological samples, the toolkit provides a thorough framework for assessing the entire food value chain.

It takes into account economic, social and cultural factors that influence food affordability and acceptability, as well as how the attitudes of value chain actors can contribute to risky food practices.

The toolkit has also been used to assess the milk value chain in Tanzania, small ruminant value chain in Ethiopia and pig value chains in Uganda and Vietnam.

For more information about the toolkit, please contact the Safe Food, Fair Food project coordinator Kristina Roesel (k.roesel @ cgiar.org)

ILRI graduate fellow Taishi Kayano collects milk samples from a Kenyan dairy farm

ILRI graduate fellow Taishi Kayano collects milk samples from a Kenyan dairy farm as part of a qualitative survey on aflatoxins in the dairy chain in Kenya. (photo credit: ILRI/Taishi Kayano).

In January 2013, an international, multidisciplinary team of five upcoming researchers undertook a scoping survey of aflatoxins in the feed-dairy chain in Kenya as part of activities of the project, “Measuring and mitigating the risk of mycotoxins in maize and dairy products for poor consumers in Kenya” (MyDairy project).

The team comprised Kenyan PhD students Anima Sirma and Daniel Senerwa, American intern Calvin Pohl, Japanese veterinary student Taishi Kayano and Kenyan postdoctoral scientist Teresa Kiama.

They visited nine districts and 27 villages in rural Kenya where they led participatory rapid appraisals on dairying and aflatoxins and held focus group discussions with women dairy farmers.

In addition, all the communities visited were given information and training on safe handling and storage of milk and animal feed.

The qualitative part of the survey collected data on the type of feeds, milk yield and the storage period for milk and feed, among other variables.

Samples of milk and feed were also collected for laboratory analysis to investigate the association between the condition of cattle and the prevalence of aflatoxin in milk.

The results of the qualitative survey are being analyzed but preliminary findings show that the surveyed farmers use a variety of feeding practices for their dairy cattle and most of the milk is marketed in the informal sector as raw, unprocessed milk.

Recalling his field research experience as an ILRI graduate fellow, Kayano had this to say:

“I visited farmers with livestock officers or chiefs in the districts. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to get meet the local farmers and collect the milk and feed samples.

“They also helped to identify the precise locations of the dairy farms; this was very useful as there are no detailed maps of dairy farms.

“The livestock officers also translated our questionnaires from English to Kiswahili which was a key step in acquiring the data needed for the study.

“An internship at ILRI is a really good opportunity for students who would like to work on a short-term basis in an international research institution and to experience doing research in a developing country context.”

Read more about the MyDairy project