I wonder why most people find it difficult to check the expiring date of a food product before consumption. But I have narrowed why most people don’t check for this important information’s into 2.
- Laziness and carelessness
Be informed that all the food we consume falls under the classifications of food; protein, minerals, carbohydrate, fat and oil e.t.c. For nutritional value content concern, most food processing factories mixes up 4-5 classes of food to make one single food for human consumption, and all these classes of foods has different shelf-life.
Mostly, people check the product (Food) physical state without having the knowledge of what is inside; so they eat carelessly.
Expired food product which mostly high in aflatoxins or other mycotoxins do not tend to kill human in a minute except for the case of food poisoning but it ends up accumulating and weakening the body system gradually and finally causes severe harms like cancer to his host (Body).
Let’s quickly have a well understanding of Aflatoxins; they are family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize (Corn), peanut/groundnut, cottonseed, and the tree nuts. The main fungus that produces aflatoxins is aspergillus Flavus and aspergillus parasiticus which are abundant in warm and humid regions of the world. When taken in high proportion, they are poisonous and cause cancer. Aflatoxins are considered harmful in some parts of the world where people consume a large amount of these foods such as Asia and Africa. Unlike in Europe, Aflatoxins containing farm produce is always given utmost check at the port of entry. If considered harmful for human consumption, they will call on veterinary scientists to check how safe it’s for animal consumption and subsequently converted to animal feed.
Country like Nigeria with over (190millions populations) on a daily basis, depend on corn and its derivates such as corn flour, corn meals as source of carbohydrate and peanuts and its derivates such as groundnut butter, kulikuli and roasted peanuts as source of protein and fat that is why we limit out case study to aflatoxins in maize/corn and Peanuts/groundnuts.
The occurrence of aflatoxins is influenced by certain environmental factors; hence the extent of contamination will vary with geographical location, agricultural and agroeconomic practices and the susceptibility of commodity (corn and peanut) to fungal invasion during pre-harvest, storage, and/or processing periods. Study reveals that there are 4 major aflatoxins namely; B1, B2, G1, G2.
aflatoxins often occur in crops in the field prior to harvest. Post-harvest contamination can occur if drying is delayed and during storage of the crop if water is allowed to exceed critical value of the mold growth. Insects or rodent infestation facilitate mold invasion of some stored commodities. Pre harvest Aflatoxins contamination of peanuts and corn is favoured by high temperature prolong drought conditions and high insect activity; while post-harvest production of aflatoxins on corn and peanuts is favored by warm temperature and high humility.
Analysis for aflatoxins (corn and Peanuts) can only be done in a standard laboratory and you can never determine if food is contaminated with aflatoxins with physical appearance or packaging status except for the case of outrageous growth of fungi. But in the case of Nigeria, where Agricultural pre harvesting and post harvesting processes is generally poor, risk of aflatoxins is always high in some of our food.
Some of the methods of analysis for aflatoxins in food and feed generally are
- solid-phase extraction
- Thin-Layer chromatography
- Liquid chromatography
- Immunochemical methods
Since the ability of aflatoxins to cause cancer and related diseases in human, their seemingly unavoidable occurrences in foods and feeds makes the prevention and detoxification of these mycotoxins one of the most challenging toxicology issues of present time.
HINTS* We are not creating this article for masses to be scared or panic, but to be aware of the presence and risk of aflatoxins in some of the food we consume on a daily basis (Corn and Groundnut). The food and agricultural organization (FAO) estimate that 25% of the world food crops are affected by mycotoxins, of which the most notorious are aflatoxins. So you are not the only one in it.
Management and control of Aflatoxins in Nigeria Corn and groundnut
Eradicating aflatoxins completely from our food may seem impossible but we can control and manage our farm produce to reduce it to minimal proportion for human consumption.
Regulatory Control: the FDA has established specific guideline on acceptable levels of aflatoxins in human food and feed by establishing action levels that allow for the removal of violative lots from commodity. Hence, the action level for human food is 20ppb total aflatoxins.
Numerous Strategies: for aflatoxins detoxification have been proposed and these includes; the physical method of separation, thermal inactivation, irradiation, solvent extraction, adsorption from solution, microbial inactivation and fermentation.
Meanwhile, for the average citizen of Nigeria that has no laboratory to run test for 50naira peanuts or 250naira corn before consumption, try to get rid of peanuts that has mold (spoilt peanuts). Consume only the fresh roasted peanuts without sand.
Try to avoid eating peanuts with shell.
Cook and roast properly before consumption.
Preserve your corn properly after harvest and avoid using harmful chemicals to preserve it from insect and rodent
Keep your corn and groundnut away from water or high humidity area to discourage the growth of fungi causing aflatoxins.