One of the traditional methods the President is advocating for in the case of groundnuts is to unshell them only when they are going to be prepared or cooked as opposed to opening and keeping them in the open grounds as it is today especially in the market
President Yoweri Museveni has asked researchers to promote traditional methods of keeping food safe in order to prevent formation of molds.The President said some molds carry harmful fungi which can penetrate the food and cause health problems.
The moulds that find their way into our bodies through the foods we eat, affect body organs like the liver, kidney, affects the intestinal lining hence interfering with digestion of food among others.
In extreme cases the chemicals excreted by the moulds contain toxins known as aflotoxins which are known to cause fatalities in extreme cases.Such moulds called Aflatoxins are found in grains that have been poorly handled at a time of harvest, drying and storage such as ground nuts, millet, sorghum, maize among others.
One of the traditional methods the President is advocating for in the case of groundnuts is to unshell them only when they are going to be prepared or cooked as opposed to opening and keeping them in the open grounds as it is today especially in the markets.
"Am told that eating groundnuts that have been removed from their shells and left in the open is bad because they easily attract moulds, I was advised that we should keep the groundnuts in their shells and only open them when we are going to pound and eat them, that way you will have controlled the mould," said Museveni.
The President took to task researchers who develop research projects that do not explain to the public how to utilize the information they generate.He however wondered why scientists especially health practitioners have not taken time to give the consumers information so as to prevent consumption of contaminated food.
He said creating awareness on the dangers of aflatoxin in order to prevent the increasing number of diseases especially cancer, which is associated with eating foods that have moulds which produce dangerous toxins.
"Why do they keep quiet about such things, why don't you talk about them and yet everyday people are eating all these things, I don't know whether it is malice but i want the health systems across the continent to be more proactive and inform people about these problems," said Museveni.
The president was speaking at the 2nd Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) meeting at imperial resort beach hotel in Entebbe on Wednesday. The meeting running under the Theme Tracking commitments, sustaining implementation for results and impact,"
It was aimed at tracking progress of implementing specific actions identified in the 1st PACA meeting which advocated for practical value chain management, incentives and policies in the management of aflatoxins in food items.
Having consulted his doctor, the president noted that aflatoxins cause wide range of health problems include cancer of the liver, inflammation of the kidney leading to kidney failure, stunted growth among children, affects cell membrane, the spleen among others.
To ensure that traditional methods could be made better, he said they created the faculty of food science and technology at Makerere University which is being spread out to other universities, we created a faculty of food science and technology at Makerere University when we came into power.
"We wanted to transform our traditional technology which we have been using to manage our foods to upgrade them to modern industrial needs and make them better instead of calls for me to fortify rice, why not improve millet, rice is food for foreigners," the President noted,"
According to him promoting foods like millet which he said is the richest cereal with carbohydrates, proteins, iron is better than fortifying rice.Having highlighted the problems associated with aflatoxins, the president tasked the head of the faculty of food science and technology Prof. Achileo Kaaya to explain the measure
Progress in Aflotoxins control at Makerere University
Kaaya explained that they have already concluded research on establishing the levels of aflatoxins in foods cassava, millet, sorghum, groundnuts and maize, the economic and health impact, and now have established aflotoxins mitigation action plan
The plan will be mainstreamed with in the agriculture ministry and it has four thematic areas, which include good agriculture like timely planting, making sure the crop grows well in the fields, proper drying not on the ground like it is for farmers who dry on bear ground among others.
How to destroy aflatoxins,
The fungus that causes aflatoxins can be destroyed through heating and roasting but the toxins cannot be destroyed with any amount of heat, Kaaya explained.
However there are other scientific methods of removing the toxins like using aflotoxins binders especially in animal feeds, using chemicals like ammonium but these cannot be applied in human foods that is why preventives measures are a better strategy of getting rid of aflotoxins, Kaaya added.