Chronic dietary aflatoxins exposure in Kenya and emerging public health concerns of impaired growth and immune suppression in children

  • E Owaga
  • R Muga
  • H Mumbo
  • F Aila

Abstract

Aflatoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by fungi and contaminate various agricultural commodities either before harvest or under post-harvest conditions. Acute aflatoxin poisoning leading to casepatients
and deaths has continued to occur in several parts of Kenya. However, there is emerging evidence implicating chronic aflatoxins exposure as an important factor in infant growth stunting and immune suppression. The consumption of smaller dosages overtime produces no obvious symptoms as would happen with acute dosage. Thus, it has not attracted much attention in Kenya in terms of public health priorities. Aflatoxins have been detected mainly in the staple foods such as cereals and legumes commodities, which form the main gruel ingredients used to compose weaning foods in most rural households. This suggests that children may be more exposed to mycotoxins than the rest of the population and this could be the reason for increased cases of infant malnutrition and mortality in certain areas in Kenya. The extent to which stunted growth and immune suppression contribute to the overall burden of infectious disease merits consideration. Therefore, this paper discusses dietary chronic mycotoxins exposure in Kenya and emerging public health concerns of stunted growth and immune suppression as reported in various related animal and human studies. It also highlights several factors that may enhance the dietary mycotoxinsexposure especially amongst children and further explores various localized control measures and research areas within the context of food scarcity and extreme poverty experienced in rural Kenya. This paper aims at reinforcing that presence of mycotoxins within the food system should be addressed as an urgent food safety issue as they place a significant hindrance towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 6 on reduction of child mortality and combating of diseases, respectively.
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eISSN: 1997-342X
print ISSN: 1991-8631