UGANDA – Authorities in Uganda are reportedly set to destroy 1700 tonnes of maize previously seized by South Sudan after a fresh independent test carried out by regional experts returned positive results of above-normal levels of the aflatoxin.
The South Sudan National Bureau of Standards (SSNBS) red-flagged the grains in May before dumping the consignments at the Elegu border post in July.
According to The Daily Monitor, preliminary lab results reportedly showed that 1700 tonnes of maize products valued at US$2 million have now exceeded the normal quantity of the chemical that is scientifically proven to cause cancer.
Mr. Kabondo Jacob, the coordinator of the Uganda Millers Association reported that tests carried out by the East African experts revealed that the maize failed to meet the allowable aflatoxin B1 levels for the East African region.
“The maize failed to pass the EAC agreed permissible limit for Aflatoxin B1 in the EAC economic bloc,” Kabondo said.
The agreed B1 aflatoxin levels in foods in EAC is a minimum of five parts per billion (5ppb) while elsewhere is 10ppb.
This, according to experts is intended to protect the health of consumers.
Aflatoxin B1, a toxic and carcinogenic compound produced by certain fungi, is classified as a known human carcinogen and can lead to severe health issues, including liver cancer.
The results have sparked off a blame game, with grain millers pointing an accusing finger at poor storage facilities in South Sudan.
Millers claim that the consignment was impounded and left in an open space for an extended period, subjecting the grain to high temperatures and leading to contamination.
Trade issue resolved
In mid-October, South Sudan Ambassador to Uganda Juach said Uganda traders had resumed exporting their maize to South Sudan after halting supplies for over three months due to the measures taken to address food safety concerns, but which escalated into an uneasy trade row.
Jauch said the differences that developed in May 2023 concerning the test conducted by the South Sudan Bureau of Standards were resolved after the two bureau standards met.
He stressed that the situation resulted from the fact that some people were found buying food from unregistered maize producers.
“It was also found that some of these people were really not buying from registered grain producers; they were just picking from the markets,” he said.
“So, it was resolved that, before this grain crosses into South Sudan, the Uganda Bureau of Standard will have to certify that they passed the quality checks and therefore will have no problem that has the agreement, and since then nothing has been happening,” he added.