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Your ugali, milk and meat might be killing you softly, study.

A study released by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in June showed that a large amount of milk and grains consumed by Kenyans have aflatoxin levels exceeding internationally accepted limits.

The ILRI study established that Kenya had aflatoxin levels of between 0.02 parts per billion (ppb) to 9661 ppb with positive samples ranging from 75-100%. It found that that 72% of the milk from dairy farmers, 84% from large and medium-scale farmers and 99% of the pasteurised marketed milk had aflatoxin, most of which exceeded the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) limit of 50 parts per trillion (ppb).

The survey further showed that 25 to 100% of feed in the farms exceeded required five ppb while 87 to 100% of feeds bought from retailers exceeded the limit.

Dubbed “Measuring and mitigating risk of mycotoxins in maize and dairy products for poor consumers in Kenya”, the survey was done from samples of livestock feeds collected from farmers in five counties.

Between 20-100% of feeds from manufacturers were above the required five ppb.

Milk samples from those counties had 128.7-1675 parts per trillion of aflatoxin with at least 55% of samples exceeding 50 ppb and six per cent above 500 ppb.

The study also indicated that consumers of cereal products are at high risk of aflatoxin exposure following prolonged humidity in the country and poor grain storage among smallholder farmers.

“Households are consuming unprecedented levels of aflatoxin, a carcinogenic substance, hence putting their lives in danger while hampering efforts to reduce the country’s growing cancer burden,” said lead researcher Johana Lindahl.

Apart from being the leading cause of liver cancer, acute aflatoxicosis can lead to depression, anorexia, weight loss, disease, gastrointestinal bleeding, pulmonary edema and stunted growth especially in children.

“Kenya is a hotspot for aflatoxin contamination, especially in maize, and farmers, traders and the general public need to be educated on the dangers and simple prevention measures,’’ said Lindahl.

However, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) Director General Eliud Kireger dismissed the report as alarmist, saying that most Kenyans could have died if that was the case.

He however acknowledged that aflatoxin is a major threat to food security in the country, asking the government to subsidise bio-control products to tackle aflatoxin.

Aflatoxin is a major course of liver cancer. This condition is most prevalent in areas around Makindu and Eastern region where farmers harvest maize prematurely.

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