Sampling procedure

ICRISAT designed and instituted a system for quality assurance, which involved sampling and estimation of aflatoxin contamination levels in peanuts purchased by NASFAM. A sampling auger was used to collect peanut samples from each 50 kg bag at various depths. A 200 g subsample was derived from the auger samples, placed in a plastic Ziploc bag and sent to the laboratory for processing.

From the 3,806 samples evaluated for NASFAM during the 2003/2004 season, 39% had no detectable aflatoxin, 29% had 1-2 ng/g aflatoxin, 20% had 2-4 ng/g aflatoxin and 12% had > 4 ng/g aflatoxin, with 1,500 ng/g the highest level of aflatoxin detected. NASFAM separated the peanut lots into those with < 4 ng/g aflatoxins and those with < 20 ng/g afla-toxins for export to Europe and South Africa, respectively. The markets of different countries have readily accepted the certified peanuts from Malawi. With this certification, Ma-lawian farmers received better prices for their peanuts and increased their share of the export trade. The high numbers of samples with low levels of aflatoxin indicate that farmers have begun to apply the good agricultural practices and postharvest handling procedures advised by ICRISAT to reduce or eliminate aflatoxin contamination.

This improvement was due primarily to the aflatoxin analytical laboratory support and trained staff available at ICRISAT-Lilongwe. This laboratory is a simple one for testing peanuts for aflatoxins with an ELISA. The test is easy to perform, does not require expensive equipment and is suitable for laboratory conditions that exist in many developing countries.

Antibodies produced in-house at ICRISAT-Patancheru and standards necessary for the test are provided by ICRISAT. The cost of testing for each sample is expected to be less than US$ 1, which is several times cheaper than testing by HPLC or with a commercial ELISA kit. Moreover, this laboratory is easy to maintain and is not resource intensive. The facility functions as an autonomous unit and is seeking the accreditation necessary for certification purposes.

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