Mycotoxins are harmful compounds associated with fungal metabolism on moist foods. The scourge of mycotoxins and their adverse effects on health, nutrition, trade and livelihoods in Kenya specifically, and in Africa as a whole, is unprecedented. It is estimated that four out of every five of the continent’s 1.1 billion residents are exposed (daily) to contaminated foods. Children (the future of Africa) are the most affected by these poisons, consequently suffering from suppressed immunity that increases their susceptibility to disease, impairing their physical and mental development, with stunting in the order of 50% reported in some regions. One person is diagnosed every minute, worldwide, with cancer of the food pipe, with 80% of the cases in Africa and Asia. Aflatoxins also account for up to 40% of diagnosed liver cancer cases in Africa. Besides health, the economic impact of mycotoxins on the continent is huge, summarised by losses in global trade opportunities exceeding US$ 450 million, annually.
Mycotoxins are considered an “invisible” problem because they do not always alter the appearance or taste of foods, or constitute a significant depreciation in “weight” to reflect plainly as “Post-Harvest Loss”. This poses a big challenge for control, especially in Africa where quality standards are well written, but selectively enforced (mostly for exports), leaving local consumers exposed to poisons that compete unrestrictedly alongside safe produce for market share.