GHANA – Ghana’s effort to espouse a coordinated approach for aflatoxin control in food and feed has been given a boost with the development of a draft policy by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI) for approval of the Cabinet.

The policy is intended to harness the collective skills and strengths of various stakeholders for the efficient management of aflatoxins in the country so as to help increase income of food value chain actors.

Aflatoxin contamination is said to be highly prevalent in Ghana and mostly affects staple foods such as raw and processed products of maize, groundnut, sorghum, millet, kokonte (dried partially fermented cassava), spices as well as animal products instigating various illnesses and rejection of maize imports.

At a sensitization workshop on the Aflatoxin Policy hosted by the CSIR-STEPRI in Accra, for all stakeholders, Mrs. Cynthia Asare-Bediako, Chief Director, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), explicated that the policy was an important tool that would promote food safety, public health and economic development.

She advised that while stakeholders await the approval from Cabinet, intensive education and awareness creation should be ongoing for people to know how to handle their food and feed so as to ensure the safety of all persons who consume them.

The MESTI Chief Director applauded STEPRI for leading the designing of the policy, and the Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA) that provided funding and technical support.

According to Business Ghana, Dr Mrs. Wilhelmina Quaye, Director of CSIR-STEPRI, affirmed that the processes for the approval of the policy were far gone. She added 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.

Quaye informed that 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 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.

Mr. Bashiru M. Dokurugu, Interim Country Director, AGRA, 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 loses to farm produce, particularly maize that record annual loses 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.

The policy will 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.

The policy is in response to a requirement by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for member states to develop and implement aflatoxin control action plans in line with the strategy of the partnership for aflatoxin control in Africa (PACA) and the ECOWAS aflatoxin control action plan (ECOACAP).