By Joseph Erunke
THE federal government has expressed concern over the high economic loss it said the country was incurring due to continuous rejection of Nigeria’s food products in the international market.
Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, speaking Thursday, in Abuja, at a two-day sensitization workshop on the prevention of Mycotoxins in food and environment, also regretted that there was a high economic loss due to diseases induced by mycotoxins in the country’s food products.
“There is high economic loss due to diseases induced by mycotoxins and the continuous rejection of Nigeria food products in the international market,” he noted.
According to him,”It is instructive to note that, controlling mycotoxins which are largely preventive, entails good agricultural practice and sufficient post-harvest drying of crops.”
“Additionally, they are also controlled by the diversion of mycotoxin-contaminated commodities from the food supply through effective screening in the market place.
“These, require concerted efforts of both the environment, agriculture and health sectors through effective collaboration, thereby fostering the objectives of one health,” he said.
The minister said there was “the need to prioritize mycotoxin control through the use of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) concepts following an Integrated management approach for pre-harvest, harvesting, post-harvest, storage and processing of food and cash crops.”
” In the same vein, the ministry is strongly advocating for an effective Mycotoxin Testing Programme using rapid testing technology with potential for scaling up to laboratory-based methods,” he said.
Describing the workshop as “apt and timely considering the adverse health effects of mycotoxins on the health of Nigerians and our economy”, the minister recalled that the “Food and Agriculture Organization asserts that more than one-quarter of the World’s agricultural produce is contaminated with Mycotoxins.”
“The common occurrence and extensive growth of moulds in homes, schools, offices and especially on food and food products poses a great risk to human survival,” he said, adding that:” The low level of knowledge by the public about these moulds and the effects of the metabolites they produce is of great concern and needs to be promptly addressed.”
According to him, “Exposure to moulds and their toxic mycotoxins and other metabolites in food and environment has been associated with disorders of the respiratory and central nervous systems to mention but a few.”
“We must, as a country, be worried about the risk of environmental exposures experienced by those that consume or are exposed to food and food products contaminated with mycotoxins,” he charged.
He spoke further: “As has been well established, the exposure of human and animal to mycotoxin is both chronic (cancer induction, kidney toxicity, immune suppression) and acute (turkey X syndrome, human ergotism, etc).
“The ingestion of mycotoxin through food and inhalation of mycotoxins and other contaminants in the air might result in lung damage, allergic reactions such as irritation in the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin, and sometimes headaches.
“Exposure to all these contaminants could have harmful effects on vital organs and consequently on the overall human health and productivity.
“There is high economic loss due to diseases induced by mycotoxins and the continuous rejection of Nigeria food products in the international market.
“Moulds are perhaps the most pressing food quality problems in environments because many of our food and food products are moist organic materials which are subjected to poor methods of food handling and storage. Also worrisome is the dense nature of our population where buildings are more likely to harbor high levels of molds.”