Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), in collaboration with the Embassy of the Peoples’ Republic of China, has sensitised market men and women to mycotoxin contamination of agricultural and food commodities.
A report signed by Dr Chigozie Nwodo, Head of Press and Media in NAQS, in Abuja said that the awareness activity took place in Kano, Benue and the FCT between May and June this year.
Mycotoxins are produced by moulds or fungi growing on agricultural commodities and allied products under some favourable environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity.
Mycotoxins can be found in nuts, cereals, Oilseeds, tubers, seafood, spices, fruits, livestock and poultry, agro-allied products. When humans are exposed to mycotoxin, it consequently contaminates their urine, blood, semen, breast milk, serum, among others.
Dr Vincent Isegbe, the Coordinating Director of NAQS, said that that the objectives of the workshop were to educate, inform and enlighten participants on the occurrence and prevalence of mycotoxins in agricultural and food commodities.
“The workshop was organised to discuss the health and economic impacts of exposure to mycotoxin as well as the prevention and control of mycotoxin contamination in food, feeds and environment. It also examined the ubiquitous nature of fungi and occupational exposure to mycotoxin as well as the inappropriate post-harvest practices often employed by actors in agriculture and food value chains (producers, processors, handlers, marketers and consumers),’’ he said.
Isegbe also said that the role of agriculture and food commodities in the economic, industrial growth and the well-being of citizens was part of the themes of the workshop, which had market men and women as its target groups.
He underscored the need to give priority to any issue such as mycotoxin contamination, which had negative impacts on agriculture, food security and the people’s health.
Dr Maimuna Habib, Head of Department, Laboratory Management Services, NAQS, said that open market practices, employed by those selling agricultural and food commodities in Nigerian markets, were inappropriate, while posing a lot of risks.
She decried the habit of market men and women who were fond of washing fruits and vegetables with detergents, saying that it was a harmful practice.
Habib also said that the use of carbide on hasten the ripening of fruits such as banana and plantain, as well as the preservation beans and other commodities with dichlorvos, among other synthetic chemicals, were not acceptable.
She said that such practices could provoke illnesses, while engendering market access restrictions and poor image for the country’s produce, among others.
“Mycotoxins have negative impact on the health of consumers as well as all the market men and women and other actors involved in the food value chain. Mycotoxin cannot be seen with naked eyes; however, contaminated materials tend to be rotten, mouldy, and discoloured; they also have unpleasant smell, bitter taste and poor milling qualities. In a nutshell, the contaminated produce can cause serious damage to animal and human health. I urge all the market men and women to stop the practices; they should embrace best practices for the common benefit of the sellers and consumers,’’ she said.
In his remark, Dr Zhou Pingjian, the Ambassador of the Peoples’ Republic of China, stressed that food security was not only about sustained food supplies food for the people but it also concerned the provision of nutritious and safe food for the people.
He said that the Chinese embassy was pleased to collaborate with NAQS in efforts to educate stakeholders on the dangers of mycotoxin contamination of agricultural and food commodities.
Zhou pledged the China would support any measures taken by the Federal Government to promote food safety and security.
He conveyed the willingness of China to share its experience on food safety with Nigeria, adding that his country would also provide financial and technical assistance to Nigeria in efforts to achieve agricultural transformation and food security.