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Mycotoxins contamination of market maize and the potential of density sorting in reducing exposure in unregulated food systems in Kenya

In: World Mycotoxin Journal
Authors:
F.M. Ngure Independent Research Consultant, Mycotoxins Mitigation and Child Stunting Research Trial, Arusha Tanzania & Nairobi, P.O. Box 1292, Limuru 00217, Kenya.
Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Savage Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

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C. Ngure Department of Plant Pathology, University of Nairobi, 3099-00200 Nairobi, Kenya.

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G. Achieng Department of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, University of Nairobi, 3099-00200 Nairobi, Kenya.

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F. Munga Biosciences East and Central Africa Hub at the International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI), P.O. Box 30709, Nairobi 00100, Kenya.

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Z. Moran Department of Emergency Medicine, NYU Langone Health, New York, NY, USA.

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W. Stafstrom School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853, USA.

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R.J. Nelson School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853, USA.

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Open Access

Aflatoxins and fumonisins commonly contaminate key food staples in tropical countries, causing recurring acute and chronic public health problems. The present study was conducted to assess the potential of a simple device designed for density-based sorting of maize for its potential to reduce aflatoxins and fumonisins in diverse samples of naturally contaminated maize. A cross sectional survey was conducted, analysing market maize samples (n=204) from eight counties in Western Kenya. A quarter (25%) of the maize samples were contaminated with aflatoxin B1 above the legal limit of 5 μg/kg and nearly half (48%) were contaminated with fumonisins at levels above the legal limit of 2 μg/g. Analysis of additional samples (n=24) from Meru County showed that contamination of maize with the two toxins was also common in Eastern Kenya. A simple density sorter was used to separate grain samples into heavy and light fractions. With an out-sort rate of 31%, density sorting was effective in separating maize by bulk density and 100-kernel weight (P<0.001). Bulk density was negatively correlated with aflatoxins in unsorted (r=-0.20, P<0.01) and heavy fractions (r=-0.32, P<0.01). Density sorting was effective at reducing fumonisins; for maize samples with >1 μg/g, the heavy (accepted) fraction had 66% lower fumonisins than the unsorted maize. After density sorting, the light and heavy fractions fumonisin levels differed by an average of 8.38 μg/g (P<0.001). However, sorting was not effective at significantly reducing aflatoxin levels in maize that was highly contaminated. A simple density sorting equipment that could be adopted by local small-scale millers has potential to reduce fumonisins in maize. Additional and complementary sorting technologies, such as size screening and spectral sorting might improve the effectiveness of reducing aflatoxins in maize.

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