Export constraints

Aflatoxins have tremendous economic impact on international trade in the form of losses in African exports to the European Union and the United States. Aflatoxin contamination of peanuts is one of the most important constraints to their trade. Peanuts are the most important cash crop in most countries of western and southern Africa. Africa produces 20% of global production, 60% of which comes from West Africa, mostly from Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria

(Mare et al., 2005). In these three countries, the proportion of peanuts contaminated with afla-toxin beyond the maximum permissible limit for trade is high (Kpodo and Bankole, Chapter 9).

The sharp decline in international peanut trade has had severe economic consequences for development in many African countries, especially those that rely on agricultural commodities for export earnings. Rejection of export commodities by developed countries resulted in the loss of trade (Wu, 2004). The Nigerian Ministry of External Affairs reported that food export commodities were rejected by the European Union on several occasions due to high aflatoxin levels, especially in melon seeds. Such rejections have resulted in large, but unknown, losses in revenue and created poor images of the country in international food export markets.

The screening of agricultural commodities, processed food and animal feed for aflatoxins has become essential in international trans-border trade. African countries, in most cases, are unable to meet the stringent food safety requirements of importing countries, such as the European Union, which set the limit for aflatoxins at one tenth (2 ng/g) that of Codex Alimenta-rius (20 ng/g). Many African countries, due to their limited resources and infrastructure, are at a competitive disadvantage in guaranteeing/certifying the safety of their commodity exports.

Poor regulatory and control systems

Africa's inability to meet the regulatory standards set by many importing countries is caused by inadequate or nonexistent national regulatory systems for mycotoxin monitoring in the form of standards, regulations, analytical laboratories and qualified personnel. Seventy-six countries worldwide have regulations preventing the importation of aflatoxin-contaminated food commodities (FAO, 2004). Such widespread restrictions keep the situation for African countries bleak.

Regulatory standards worldwide are implemented to safeguard the health and rights of consumers, and to protect them from undue economic exploitation as a result of the supply of inferior quality goods. Satisfying these fairly ambitious standards requires the use of laboratory-generated data on consumer products, identifying quality parameters for regulating existing products and the enforcement of compliance with existing regulations.

Some African countries have attempted to implement regulatory measures to monitor and control the quality of food products meant for both local and international consumption. In Nigeria, the National Agency for Food, Drug, Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is responsible for the regulation and control of the importation, exportation, manufacture, advertisement, distribution, sale and use of food in the country. The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) formulates food standards and regulates food processing in Kenya, and Ghana has a similar regulatory and control body. All three countries have established national food standards and adopted international standards such as Codex, but none can obtain the necessary data on mycotoxin contamination levels necessary for the policy development. The problems associated with this lack of information reinforce the importance of surveillance and capacity building for mycotoxin testing in African countries. Testing laboratories form the backbone of global regulatory activities, as all other regulatory functions revolve around them.

The NAFDAC experience in Nigeria

Establishment of an analytical, regulatory laboratory is a formidable challenge, particularly in African countries. However, the Mycotoxins Laboratory initiated and completed by NAFDAC is today amongst the best equipped on the African continent.

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