Prevalence of aflatoxin in feeds and cow milk from five counties in Kenya
Mycotoxin-producing fungi contaminate food and feeds before, during and after harvest. Aflatoxins are important mycotoxins and aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is a class 1 human carcinogen (definitely carcinogenic). Aflatoxin M1 (AFM1) is a class 2B (possible) human carcinogen. Aflatoxin B1 in feeds can decrease milk production, reduce fertility and increase susceptibility to infections. A cross-sectional study of aflatoxin contamination of milk and dairy feeds was carried out in five counties in Kenya representing different agro-ecological zones: Kwale, Isiolo, Tharaka-Nithi, Kisii and Bungoma. Dairy feed concentrates and cattle milk were collected twice (dry season and rainy season) from 285 dairy farmers in the five counties and analysed for AFB1 and AFM1, using competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In the five counties, the proportion of farmers who fed cattle with dairy concentrates varied from zero to 68%. The dairy feed concentrates from farmers had AFB1 levels ranging from less than one part per billion (ppb) to 9661 ppb and the positive samples ranged from 47.8 to 90.3%. The percentages of dairy feeds from farmers with AFB1 above the World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (WHO/FAO) limit of 5 ppb varied from 33.3% to 87.5 % while 83.3% to 100% of the feeds from retailers and 28.6% to 100% of the feeds from manufacturers exceeded the WHO/FAO limit. Aflatoxin M1 prevalence in milk was lowest in Kwale (13.6%) and highest in Tharaka-Nithi (65.1%). The proportion of milk samples with AFM1 above the WHO/FAO standard of 50 parts per trillion (ppt) varied from 3.4% (Kwale) to 26.2% (Tharaka-Nithi); the highest was 6999ppt. This study shows that aflatoxin contamination is common in dairy feeds and in milk and concentrations may be high. This may contribute to ill health effects in both humans and animals and, therefore, there is need for better understanding of the impacts of aflatoxins in the feed–dairy value chain and appropriate interventions to control aflatoxin contamination in animal feeds.
Keywords: aflatoxins, feeds, dairy cattle, milk, Kenya, dairy value chain, mycotoxins, food safety