Aflatoxins—a naturally occurring carcinogenic byproduct of common fungi on grains and other crops—pose a significant public health risk in many tropical developing countries. It is estimated that 26,000 Africans living south of the Sahara die annually of liver cancer associated with chronic aflatoxin exposure. There are also broader health effects associated with aflatoxins, such as immune suppression with higher rates of illness and child stunting. In addition to health risks, aflatoxins can also limit the growth of commercial markets and trade. For example, in 2007, aflatoxin contamination sharply limited the quantities of maize that the World Food Programme was able to purchase locally in Africa.
IFPRI’s 2020 Vision Initiative and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health invited Laurian Unnevehr and Delia Grace to convene a group of global experts to prepare 19 policy briefs focused on what can be done to reduce the detrimental impacts of aflatoxins. The briefs review what is known about health risks from aflatoxins, discuss how to overcome market constraints to aflatoxin control, explore the international policy context for taking action in developing countries, and assess the state of research on new aflatoxin control technologies. Speakers at the event will provide address challenges and solutions, with a focus on market and policy options to combat aflatoxins and improve food safety.
Copies of the briefs will be available at the event.