Hung Nguyen-Viet

Hung Nguyen-Viet, researcher at the Center for Public Health and Ecosystem Research (CENPHER) and joint appointee of the International Livestock Research Institute (photo credit: CENPHER/Hung Nguyen-Viet).

Hung Nguyen-Viet, an environmental scientist at the Center for Public Health and Ecosystem Research (CENPHER) of the Hanoi School of Public Health and a joint appointee of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was a John Dillon Fellow in 2014.

Under the fellowship, he spent six weeks in Australia during February to March 2014 on formal training in professional communication, leadership development and research management, coupled with field visits to farms and research institutions.

In this short video (3.26 minutes), Hung shares some of the highlights of his experience as a John Dillon fellow and his key learning points.

The John Dillon Memorial Fellowship of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) was set up in recognition of Professor John Dillon, one of Australia’s leading agricultural economists, and his life-long support for international agricultural research.

The aim of the fellowship is to provide career development opportunities for outstanding young agricultural scientists or economists from ACIAR partner countries who are involved in a current or recently completed ACIAR project.

Hung works on an ILRI project that aims to reduce health risks and improve food safety in smallholder pig value chains in Vietnam. The project is funded by ACIAR.

He also reflects on his experience of the John Dillon Fellowship in an article in the December 2014 issue of the ACIAR in Vietnam newsletter (page 34).

Aflatoxins are highly toxic fungal by-products produced by certain strains of Aspergillus flavus in grains and other crops. Consumption of very high levels of aflatoxins can cause acute illness and death. Chronic exposure to aflatoxins is linked to liver cancer, especially where hepatitis is prevalent, and this is estimated to cause as many as 26,000 deaths annually in sub-Saharan Africa.

Aflatoxins in contaminated animal feed not only result in reduced animal productivity, but the toxins can end up in products like milk, meat and eggs, thus presenting a health risk to humans. Of these animal-source food products, milk has the greatest risk because relatively large amounts of aflatoxin are carried over and milk is consumed especially by infants.

As part of knowledge exchange on the latest research developments in the area of aflatoxins and food safety, Delia Grace and Johanna Lindahl, food safety researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), presented on aflatoxins, animal health and the safety of animal-source foods at a virtual briefing organized by the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development, a network of 37 bilateral donors, multilateral agencies and international financing institutions working to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable rural development.

Their presentation began with an overview of aflatoxins and how livestock and fish get exposed to aflatoxins. This was followed by a discussion on the impact of aflatoxins on animal health and production, how aflatoxins in crops move through the food chain to end up in animal-source foods and ways to manage the risk of aflatoxins in animals and animal-source foods.

The need for evidence-based approaches in developing standards for animal feeds was highlighted, as well as the need for risk-based regulation and legislation to provide guidelines on safety issues such as appropriate management of aflatoxin-contaminated feed.

The presentation concluded with a summary of the key messages and policy recommendations, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Watch the recording of the briefing (approx. 34 minutes)

Jump to the question-and-answer session [16:37]

More information on research on aflatoxins and food safety is available in a set of 19 research briefs published in November 2013 by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The briefs were co-edited by Laurian Unnevehr of IFPRI and Delia Grace of ILRI.

Read more about ILRI’s research projects on aflatoxins

Feeding pigs in Nagaland

A woman feeds her pigs in Nagaland, India (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The first risk-based study of food safety in the pork value chain in Nagaland, Northeast India has identified several important microbiological hazards and assessed their impacts on human health.

Nagaland has the highest density of pigs in India and the highest pork consumption levels. Therefore, information on pathogens in pigs and pork in the region, and their health impacts, is useful for decision-making on interventions aimed at improving food safety and safeguarding the health of consumers.

The study investigated samples from pigs and pork sourced at slaughter in urban and rural environments, and at retail, to assess a selection of food-borne hazards. In addition, consumer exposure was characterized using information about hygiene and practices related to handling and preparing pork.

The food-borne pathogens identified include Listeria spp. and Brucella suis. A risk assessment framework assessed the health impacts of three representative hazards or hazards proxies, namely, Enterobacteriaceae, Taenia solium cysticercosis and antibiotic residues.

The study found that by using participatory methods and rapid diagnostics alongside conventional methods, risk assessment can be used in a resource-scarce setting.

The findings are published in a special issue on food safety and public health in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

View the article

Fahrion AS, Jamir L, Richa K, Begum S, Rutsa V, Ao S, Padmakumar VP, Deka RP and Grace D. 2014. Food-safety hazards in the pork chain in Nagaland, North East India: Implications for human health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 11(1): 403-417.

We are pleased to congratulate Elizabeth Cook, a graduate fellow at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with the Zoonotic and Emerging Diseases research group, who won third prize in a poster competition held to commemorate 100 years since the founding of the UK Medical Research Council (MRC).

The MRC centenary celebration took place at the Royal Society, London on 10 December 2013 at a high-level event that brought together various heads of international biomedical research organizations, experienced researchers, parliamentarians and international research administrators and funders.

The poster competition had been organized for MRC-funded early-career researchers to communicate how international collaboration has been pivotal to their research. Cook’s PhD studentship at the University of Edinburgh is funded by the MRC.

Her poster, International partnerships – Shining the light on the neglected zoonoses, featured the People, Animals and their Zoonoses project which investigates zoonoses in western Kenya towards developing appropriate interventions for disease prevention and control.

The coordinating partners in the project are the University of Edinburgh, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya’s Department of Veterinary Services and ILRI.

The project also works in partnership with a number of universities and research institutes across the world for sampling, diagnostics and data analysis.

Funding for the project is from the Wellcome Trust and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).

Live chicken vendor

Live chicken on sale in Hung Yen province, Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Nguyen Ngoc Huyen).

Can we predict the next global pandemic? How can we ensure that we are prepared to tackle the next global disease epidemic?

Ten years after the SARS pandemic, Alok Jha, a science correspondent at The Guardian, examines a new human-animal virus surveillance project in Vietnam as part of his investigation into the possibility of predicting the next global pandemic.

Read his article in The Guardian: A deadly disease could travel at jet speed around the world. How do we stop it in time?

Listen to his science documentary on BBC Radio 4: The Next Global Killer

On 9-11 October 2013, participants from five CGIAR centres met at Naivasha in Kenya to share about their current activities related to mycotoxin research and to plan for how these different activities might contribute to the next phase of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) mycotoxin research portfolio.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub at ILRI.

Scientists presented their current mycotoxin research activities, the research gaps and opportunities they see, and areas for development. In addition, IITA presented on Biocontrol using atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus and ILRI presented on risk analysis as the current gold standard for assessing, managing and communicating food safety. All presentations are available at

The group agreed that mycotoxins were a key area for food safety and trade in Africa; that it was important to co-ordinate CGIAR activities across A4NH; that moving into a second phase of A4NH emphasis was needed on developing strong impact pathways that linked research with development outcomes.

To this end, the group established three working groups to plan and coordinate mycotoxin research across CGIAR centres:

  • Evidence for risk and risk mitigation
  • Diagnostics for use
  • Population biology for control

Download the workshop report

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: