The draft National Policy for Aflatoxin Control in Food and Feed will soon be given Cabinet approval for its full implementation to protect human and animal health.
The policy would also help increase income of food value chain actors by reducing aflatoxin contamination in food and feed.
Aflatoxin contamination is said to be highly prevalent in Ghana and mostly affect staple foods such as raw and processed products of maize, groundnut, sorghum, millet, kokonte (dried partially fermented cassava) spices as well as animal products such as meat, milk, fish and eggs, causing various ill-health and rejection of maize imports.
At a sensitisation workshop on the Aflatoxin Policy held on Wednesday in Accra hosted by the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-STEPRI), for all stakeholders, Mrs. Cynthia Asare-Bediako, Chief Director, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), explained that the policy was an important tool that would promote food safety, public health and economic development.
She said while stakeholders await the approval from Cabinet, intensive education and awareness creation of stakeholders in the value chain should be ongoing for people to know what to do to keep their food and feed safe and to ensure the safety of all persons who consume cereals and other food products.
Mrs. Asare-Bediako commended STEPRI for leading the designing of the policy, and the Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA) that provided funding and technical support.
Director of CSIR-STEPRI, Dr. Mrs. Wilhemina Quaye affirmed that the processes for the approval for the policy had gone very far and that the National Steering Committee for Aflatoxin Control, set up to coordinate the processes, had followed the prescribed policy guidelines by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) as well as the Cabinet Approval guidelines.
She said the Aflatoxin Policy project which started in 2018, aligned very well to CSIR-STEPRI’s core mandate of conducting research to provide knowledge-based information, contributing to the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes for socio-economic development on the basis of Science, Technology and Innovation.
The project has offered us the opportunity to work with four key ministries, namely, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, who are all owners and implementing entities, she said.
The National Policy for Aflatoxin Control in Food and Feed is the first of its kind in Ghana, it is innovative and transformative as it stimulates all of us to think differently about the effects of aflatoxins – food and nutrition security issues, health implications, reduction in our trade and export figures, smallholder farmer incomes and livelihoods, particularly women, and above-all the environmental impact of aflatoxins in food and feed, Dr. Quaye explained.
Interim Country Director, AGRA, Mr. Bashiru M. Dokurugu said the support being given to the formulation of the Aflatoxin policy was to ensure that it benefitted farmers especially, and also to curtail the huge losses to farm produce, particularly maize that record annual losses of 18 percent in Ghana.
It is our firm conviction that when the policy is implemented it would regulate the food system, safeguard our own quality of life and bring direct benefit to our farmers, Mr Dokurugu said.
Mr John Osei Frimpong, Member of Parliament for Abirem, in the Eastern Region, who is also the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, said Parliament had been very supportive of the Policy since it perceived it as an important document in addressing the ill effects of aflatoxin on human and animal health, food security and the economy.
He, therefore, pledged Parliament’s continuous support to the implementation of the policy.
Senior Research Scientist, (CSIR-STEPRI), and Project Coordinator, Dr. Mrs. Rose Omare mentioned that the policy sought to facilitate the development, harmonization and enforcement of policies, legislation and standards for aflatoxins control; to increase public awareness, advocacy, communication and demand for aflatoxin-safe food and feed; and to strengthen research and technology transfer on aflatoxins.
It would also strengthen surveillance systems for the detection of aflatoxin-related foodborne diseases, develop mechanisms for strengthening consumer protection and increase domestic and international trade protection in Aflatoxin-safe products as well as mobilize resources for aflatoxin-related activities.