The County government of Nakuru on Wednesday started destroying contaminated maize flour impounded from supermarkets and retail outlets after it was declared unfit for human consumption last year.
The Public Health Chief Officer, Dr. Samuel King’ori said the first batch of 36 tonnes of assorted maize flour seized from Gilgil and Naivasha Sub Counties had been destroyed.
He revealed that more containers of maize contaminated with afflatoxin that had been confiscated in nine other sub counties were being stored under tight security at various parts of the devolved unit.
“While conducting its mandate of Market Surveillance, a multiagency team tested maize meal brands and found some of them contain levels of afflatoxin higher than the requirement of the relevant Kenya standard making them unsafe for human consumption,” The Public Health Chief Officer stated.
According to Dr. King’ori a multi-agency security team had been providing security. He said the County had obtained a court order in December last year to destroy contaminated maize products.
Just this month the Kenya Bureau of Standards has banned 17 maize flour brands. Last year the standards body suspended the licenses of five maize millers over the sale of substandard flour.
Dr. King’ori encouraged the public to report any cases of suspected products still in circulation to the authorities and called on traders to withdraw all banned and contaminated products from their shelves or risk arrest and prosecution.
The County Chief Officer Medical Services, Dr. Solomon Sirma said afflatoxin are produced by fungi and grow on grains that are not dried or stored in proper conditions. They thrive in warm and moist conditions.
He said when one consumes food contaminated with the fungi, the afflatoxin is incorporated into the DNA to form complexes that colonize the liver, leading to the development of mutations that later manifest as cancer.
According to the Cancer National Institute of the US, afflatoxin are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize, peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts.
The main fungi that produce afflatoxin are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which are abundant in warm and humid regions of the world, it notes.
These fungi can contaminate crops in the field, during harvest, and even storage, experts say.
The World Health Organization warns that long-term exposure to a high level of afflatoxin can have health consequences.
These may affect all organ systems, especially the liver and kidneys; they cause liver cancer and have been linked to other types of cancer-AFB1 known to be carcinogenic in humans.
They also affect the DNA, genotoxic, and have the potential to cause birth defects in children.
The afflatoxin also cause immunosuppression, therefore may decrease resistance to infectious agents such as HIV, tuberculosis.
By Anne Mwale