THE Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) has called for farmers to have detailed knowledge on procedures to be observed in order to prevent the spread of aflatoxins in the crops’ production chain.
This was said by the TBS Food Safety Officer, Dr Candida Shirima while explaining how the standard watchdog imparted knowledge on aflatoxins to farmers in Handeni and Kilindi districts in Tanga region.
“TBS has the mandate to educate the society on food safety issues in the country and it is from this backdrop that provided awareness to Handeni and Kilindi farmers on aflatoxins, its side effects as well as the preventive measures to curb the spread,” she said.
Dr Shirima said TBS provided education to Handeni and Kilindi farmers because the districts are located in the belt that supports the growth and spread fungus that produce aflatoxins in the food crops like maize and groundnuts.
She added, it was also important to provide awareness on aflatoxins to farmers in the country because it is the harvesting season and thus it would help them conserve the crops while observing all safety measures.
Safety measures and procedures are to be observed throughout the whole crops production chain, when the crops are in the field, after harvesting, drying the crops, transportation, conservation and processing.
Dr Shirima said mycotoxins are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of moulds (fungi). Moulds that can produce mycotoxins grow on numerous foodstuffs such as cereals, dried fruits, nuts and spices.
She said the toxins are produced when crops are still in various stages of growth in the field and after harvesting and when proper procedures of handling them are ignored then the fungus can grow and spread.
In the two districts of Handeni and Kilindi, TBS reached and provided education to farmers, primary and secondary school students, entrepreneurs in the markets, in the auctions, village meetings and in the dispensaries.
This was also an opportunity for the standard watchdog to provide them awareness on the health effects of consuming food crops with aflatoxins.
Some of the symptoms that can emerge in a short period of time are stomach pains and lever problems which can lead to death if not treated.
Some of the long term effects of aflatoxins in the body are like lever cancer and immune deficiency.
Some of the preventive measures and procedures that can be taken include planting seeds approved by Seed Agencies, to clear the field well, proper use of insecticides when they observe insects and fungus in the crops as well as harvesting on time.
Dr Shirima said delaying in harvesting or leaving the crops in the field for a long time creates chances for the fungus to grow and spread.
She said after harvesting maize and groundnuts, farmers should take time to sort out those which are damaged and other unwanted in order to remain with good crops.