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East African Medical Journal

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The Influence of Household Socio-Economic Characteristics and Awareness on Aflatoxin Contamination of Maize in Makueni County, Kenya

JM Malusha, M Karama, A Makokha

Abstract


Background: Aflatoxicosis resulting from consumption of contaminated maize poses a significant public health problem in many countries including Kenya, and many people living in developing countries could be chronically exposed to aflatoxin through their diet. It is caused by Aflatoxins produced by fungus of species Aspergillusparasiticus and Aspergillus flavus found mainly in cereals and other foodstuffs.
Objective: To determine socio-economic and aflatoxin awareness factors associated with aflatoxin contamination in household maize in Makueni County, Kenya.
Design: A comparative descriptive analytical study.
Setting: Kibwezi and Kilome sub-counties of Makueni County, Kenya.
Subjects: Four hundred and fifty household heads or their representatives with maize in their household stores, comprising 225 from each study site.
Results: Majority of the households’ main source of income was farming and most of them were poor, but level of awareness on aflatoxin was very high. The results further showed significant associations of some socio-economic characteristics and awareness with aflatoxin contamination of maize. Gender of  household head was significantly associated with proper maize storage. Age of respondent was found to be significantly associated with knowledge/awareness of aflatoxin and knowledge on signs of suspected aflatoxin contaminated maize. There was significant association between age of respondent and perception on whether altitude/climate affected aflatoxin contamination, level of education and  knowledge/awareness of aflatoxin. Level of education was significantly associated with Knowledge on  identification of contaminated maize as well as on Knowledge on signs of aflatoxin. Besides, level of education was significantly associated with proper ventilation, discoloration of maize, and maize in storage affected by pests/insects, and cleaning of maize prior to storage. There was also significant  association between occupation of respondent and proper maize storage. Income of house hold head was significantly associated with knowledge/awareness on aflatoxin. Knowledge/awareness of aflatoxin  problem was also significantly associated with placing of material underneath of maize during drying, cleaning of maize prior to storage, moldy condition of maize, aflatoxin content in maize and proper maize storage.
Conclusion: These study findings imply that efforts to control and prevent aflatoxin contamination of maize should take into consideration socio-economic characteristics as well as aflatoxin awareness. Thus reducing poverty levels by raising income, education levels and awareness of the community will most likely have a profound impact on control of aflatoxin. There is need, therefore, for policy makers and stakeholders to promote household positive socio-economic factors and aflatoxin awareness in households. This can greatly contribute to reduction of aflatoxin contamination in maize.



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