Home Government Liver Cancer Cases Linked to Aflatoxin-Contaminated Foods, Says Ministry

Liver Cancer Cases Linked to Aflatoxin-Contaminated Foods, Says Ministry

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liver cancer cases linked to aflatoxin contaminated foods says ministry
liver cancer cases linked to aflatoxin contaminated foods says ministry
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In a recent statement, Margaret Muhanga, the Minister of State for Primary Health Care, revealed that the rising number of liver cancer patients is connected to the consumption of food contaminated with aflatoxins. Speaking before members of parliament, she explained that the Uganda Cancer Institute has been receiving approximately 170-200 liver cancer cases annually, with 48 to 56 of them being attributed to aflatoxin exposure. The government is spending nearly sh3.12 billion each year to treat these patients, with an average treatment cost of sh15.6 million per patient.

The minister’s claims are supported by statistics from the International Food Policy Research Center, which is collaborating with the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO). According to their data, aflatoxin exposure is responsible for 3,200 liver cancer cases annually in Uganda. Furthermore, the report reveals that 40% of commodities in local African markets exceed the maximum permissible aflatoxin levels, causing Uganda to lose up to $8 million in annual export trade.

Aflatoxins, which are invisible toxins, contaminate various crops, particularly maize and groundnuts, commonly consumed across the country. Dr. Godfrey Asea, a researcher working on Aflasafe technology, explained that aflatoxins thrive in crops stressed by factors such as drought, improper drying, and inadequate storage facilities, making them challenging to eliminate during regular food processing.

A media café organized by SCIFODE, PBS, UBBS, and NARO aimed to inform science journalists about the latest advancements in aflatoxin management in Uganda. Asea highlighted symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning, including yellowing of the eyes, stunted growth, and swollen stomachs in children, along with liver damage in poultry.

The detrimental effects of aflatoxins extend to immune suppression, stunting in children, low birth weights, liver cancer, and reduced productivity in humans and animals, among others.

Despite these challenges, solutions for controlling and managing aflatoxins are available. Timely harvesting, proper storage, and avoiding drying grains on bare ground can help mitigate aflatoxin contamination. Additionally, the use of Aflasafe, a biocontrol product developed in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), can be effective in the field. For livestock feed, researchers recommend mixing sodium Bentonite Clay with animal feed to bind and eliminate toxins. Moreover, regular consumption of biotic yogurt can help neutralize aflatoxins in humans, as suggested by Debora Wendiro, a retired food scientist from the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI).