Integrated management

Mycotoxin contamination of food- and feedstuffs has become a top priority issue in human and animal health. In traded goods, limits on mycotoxins are becoming ever more restrictive and have become a major trade barrier for agricultural products from Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs) in international markets (Pitt, 1995; Rosner, 1998).

Mold and mycotoxin contamination may be detected in any point of the supply chain. The climate in tropical and subtropical countries offers ideal conditions for mycotoxin production that need to be controlled by postharvest processes, adequate equipment and sound handling practices. More data on these aspects of the agricultural supply chain in developing countries are needed to meet international trade requirements through an integrated agricultural management scheme to control mycotoxin contamination. Contamination associated with postharvest stages of cleaning, drying, storage and processing needs to be identified in terms of the type and amounts of mycotoxins present in each stage and in the by-products used to feed animals.

Managing mycotoxins also requires risk policy determination, i.e., the determination of an "appropriate level of protection" and risk mitigation strategies. Risk mitigation requires an analysis and evaluation of the impact on production systems of mycotoxin levels and should include the setting of priorities based on risk and possible impact and advice to the private sector and individuals on prevention.

FAO provides technical assistance through projects for the prevention and control of mycotoxin contamination when introducing GAP/HACCP based management systems. All mycotoxin projects must overcome four obstacles in developing countries that increase the problem: (i) inadequate government and private resources, (ii) outdated food control systems, (iii) few, if any, action plans for prevention and control; and (iv) lack of awareness and communication. Some current projects include:

• A project on the prevention of ochratoxin A formation in coffee began in Ecuador in July 2004. The main objective was to create awareness of the effect of mold formation in coffee on public health and the economic and social consequences. The project's activities include the identification of cost-effective control systems and the implementation of a HACCP-based training program and a National Action Plan for the control of mold formation in coffee.

• A similar project on coffee quality and the reduction of ochratoxin A contamination began in Vietnam in September 2002 and was completed in 2007. The project defined mold formation mechanisms, identified critical control points, evaluated optimal drying conditions, and developed GAP, GMP and HACCP protocols to reduce and monitor ochratoxin A.

• A project in South Africa is focused on deoxynivalenol and ochratoxin A contamination in selected commodities and is designed to improve the government's ability to sample, monitor, prevent and control mycotoxins in foodstuffs. The activities centered on data gen eration and analysis to improve monitoring and control activities, enable scientific-based risk assessment with local data, and to provide relevant data to other SADC countries.

• In Iran the project assisted in the detection, control and management of mycotoxins in foodstuffs. The objective of the project was to enhance the government's ability to monitor and control mycotoxins in foodstuffs to ensure maximize consumer protection and to promote international trade.

• TCP/URU/2801 was an emergency technical assistance program in Uruguay to evaluate and control Fusarium contamination of wheat and wheat products and to establish adequate controls in the supply chain. The project included a study mission, extensive training activities in GAP, GMP and HACCP for mycotoxin prevention and control, an integrated national action plan, rapid detection methods and laboratory strengthening, the establishment of a deoxynivalenol rapid alert forecasting system and a crop information network.

Integrated management is a component of a control system composed of legislation and regulations, inspection, analysis and management (FAO/WHO, 2003). The need to develop and strengthen food control systems occurs repeatedly as such food control systems assure the health of the population, add value to domestic food products, protect against unlawful competitors, promote agro-industry development, increase access to international markets and prevent dumping of inferior quality or unsafe products. FAO's work in strengthening Food Control Systems provides advice to national authorities on legislation, infrastructure and enforcement mechanisms to strengthen food control systems to protect public health, prevent fraud, avoid food adulteration and facilitate trade. Over 40 TCPs provide assistance to national Codex Committees and for strengthening food control systems.

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