By Olajiire Isholoa
Mycotoxicology Society of Nigeria (MSN) has called on the Federal Government to come to its aid to combat the mycotoxins content in our daily food in the country.
The president of the society, Dr. B.F. Oluwabamiwo, while declaring open the 12th edition of the annual conference and AGM held at the Akinrele Auditorium, FIIRO, Lagos, said the partnership became imperative because research indicated that high levels of mycotoxins content in food are responsible for the loss of N617 billion, which Nigeria could have made from non-oil exports in nine years.
She said: “The importance of mycotoxins in our agricultural products and their attendant implications on the safety of foods and feeds, trade and health cannot be overemphasised. Food and feeds sold in our open markets are neither regulated nor traceable and this has made the zero rejection programme of the Federal Government an uphill task.
“I therefore appeal to all stakeholders, including our political leaders, to grant the same global attention given to HIV/AIDS, in terms of massive education, political support and wide spread sensitisation to mycotoxins in order to ensure availability of safer food and reduction of deaths associated with the diseases related to mycotoxins consumption.”
Hussaini Makun, professor of biochemistry, Federal University of Technology, Minna, while delivering the keynote address, said: “Between 2007 and 2016 there was rejection of Nigeria produce at EU borders due to the mycotoxins levels, which culminated into the impositions of ban on produce import, restricting export of five major agricultural produce from Nigeria to any European member country. This cost a decline of N617 billion or 34.6 per cent non-crude component of trade, including processed and unprocessed food items.
“Cereal grains accounts for half of the calories consumed by humans all over the world, but this group of agricultural commodities are easily affected by fungi that yield these mycotoxins.”
He noted that mycotoxins were poisonous chemical compounds produced by certain fungi/moulds that are threats to food and feed for human and animal consumption.
Makun said these food toxics cannot be easily detected by seeing or tasting foods because of its colourless, odourless and tasteless nature, stating that it could only be detected by Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay (ELISA).
He called on the government to take the issue of mycotoxins in foods as a matter of importance because of its negative effect on human, animal health and the country’s foreign trade.
“Mycotoxins have harmful effects on humans and animals. They are very cancerous and suppress human immune system. We conducted a research and 91 fungi species were discovered in 2,133 samples of grain crops in Nigeria. This shows that only 19.3 percent of food is safe for our consumption,” the professor said.