Post Harvest Handling Knowledge and Practices Among Food Handlers Under School Meals Programme and Intake of Aflatoxin and Fumonisin in Salima District, Malawi
Jere, Gibson M
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The natural occurrence of molds in foodstuffs produces mycotoxins. Aflatoxins and fumonisins are the most common mycotoxins in foods. Exposure to mycotoxins contaminated foods pose serious threats to human health. The healthy problems associated with exposure to mycotoxins such as cancer, immunosuppression, nutrient deficiency, impaired growth, respiratory problems, diarrhea and abdominal pain among young children still remain a public health concern causing morbidity and mortality in Malawi. The study was carried out to assess post-harvest handling knowledge and practices among food handlers on toxigenic molds contamination in School Meals Programme and the extent of exposure of aflatoxins and fumonisins for school children consuming maize based school meals in selected Primary schools in Salima District, Central Malawi. The study involved 124 food handlers and 496 school children through administering structured questionnaires. These were sampled from 31 Primary Schools among those implementing Home-grown school meals programme. Thirty (30) maize-based porridge samples were randomly collected and tested for aflatoxins and fumonisins. Aflatoxins and fumonisins levels were determined using Reveal Q+ Kits test method. Data was collected and analyzed using descriptive statistics to summarise survey and laboratory results, while probabilistic modelling Mont Carlo simulation was used to determine the intake of the mycotoxins. Results showed that 80% of food handlers had high knowledge of causes of toxigenic molds in maize foods, 47% had moderate knowledge of health effects of toxigenic molds, and 50% had moderate knowledge of control measures of toxigenic molds in maize foods. Eighty-five percent (85%) were not aware of mycotoxins in maize foods. The results also showed that 60% of food handlers practiced poor postharvest handling of maize based foods during transportation, storage and processing in schools. Furthermore, the results showed no significant differences (P > 0.05) in knowledge of toxigenic molds in maize-based foods and postharvest handling practices across demographic regions among food handlers. The maize-based porridge consumed in schools had high levels of aflatoxins (2.13 – 33.37 μg/kg) and fumonisins (<0.3 - 1.0 mg/kg). The mean intake of aflatoxins (2 ng/Kg body weight per day) and fumonisins (6 ng/Kg body weight per day) were above the recommended acceptable levels of 0.017 ng/kg bwt/day for children and 2.0 μg/Kg bwt/day according to EFSA (2007) and JECFA (2008), respectively. The study concluded that majority of food handlers had high knowledge of toxigenic molds in maize foods, however they practiced poor post-harvest handling of maize foods in School Meals Programme. The poor post-harvest handling practice of maize foods among food handlers might contribute to high levels of mycotoxins contamination in maize-based diet and high exposure of school children to aflatoxins and fumonisins from high consumption levels of maize based porridge in schools. There is need for appropriate measures to mitigate mycotoxins exposure to school children under School Meals Programme.
University of Nairobi
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