Scientists at Makerere University have proposed that strong political will and commitment from government will go a long way in tackling the negative effects of aflatoxins in foods.
According to Dr. Paul Wacoo, a lecturer at the College of Health Sciences, formulation of policies to support the management of aflatoxins should be a starting point in protecting food for consumption and sale.
“There is need to increase the number of enforcers particularly for local foods and support the development of simple technologies to counter these toxins in our foods,” said Dr. Wacoo.
He said this while appearing before the joint Committee on Health and Agriculture that is considering the effects of aflatoxins on Ugandans and the country’s trade in food produce.
Dr. Wacoo expressed concern over the negative effects of toxins in food which he said leads to liver cancer, growth retardation and weakened immunity.
He added that high costs of analysing food samples for aflatoxins have impeded farmers from ensuring their produce is free of the poisonous toxins.
“People are charged over shs100,000 which is so much for the local farmer. If this cost can be lowered and promote real-time aflatoxin on-site testing devices across the country, we can secure our food and our trade interests,” Dr. Wacco said.
The committee also received a presentation from Dr. Abel Atukwase, a lecturer at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science at the University.
He noted that factors promoting fungal contamination of foods include poor handling, processing and storage of produce which poses a negative impact on Uganda’s trade.
“In 2018, over 600,000 metric tons were rejected between Kenya’s National Cereals and Produce Board and the Uganda Grain Council due to high aflatoxin levels. This translated into a loss of shs180 billion at household level alone,” said Dr. Atukwase.
He added that a review and update of the 2018/2019 – 2022/2024 Strategic Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Aflatoxins will go a long way in strengthening food quality control systems.
Hon. Joseph Ruyonga (NRM, Hoima West Division) and Hon. Nicholas Kamara (FDC, Kabale Municipality) called for more research to mitigate aflatoxins.
“This is a very serious problem. We have so many cancers in the communities yet we do not know the cause. Research will facilitate sensitisation of communities to properly handle produce after harvesting,” said Ruyonga.
Hon. Andrew Ojok (NRM, Omoro County) recommended that quality control of seeds should be done before planting to ensure the use of inputs that are resistant to aflatoxins.