A new technology that can detect aflatoxin on location has been launched by an international agricultural research organisation. The test kit, which was launched by Dr Wilkson Makumba, director, department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) in Lilongwe, Malawi requires limited technical knowledge or training and can be used on location.
“The new test is simple to perform and can detect contamination at levels of 10 parts per billion in less than 15 minutes .
This exciting advancement combined with a mobile extraction kit is a simple non-laboratory based kit that can be used directly by non-technical people such as farmers, agro-dealers and food processors and will be ready in two months at a cost of Sh200.
“This kit can be used by traders to check for contamination before concluding a sale,” he said. The rapid detection is useful for public health authorities to help identify suspected samples in cases of an outbreak of aflatoxin poisoning.
The compact, portable device is based on the lateral flow immunoassay test (popularly known as the strip test like that used to detect glucose in human blood). If aflatoxin is present in the sample, then one pink line appears on the strip, whereas if the sample doesn’t have any aflatoxin, two pink lines will appear.
“The device will contribute to manage and reduce the entry of aflatoxins in the food value chains, improve diagnosis for local and export trade and support the food processing industry to maintain low exposure levels in food products in our local markets as well as for export markets,” said Dr Anitha Seetha, a scientist in Malawi.
According to Food and Agriculture Organisation, 25 per cent of all crops—including groundnut, maize, sorghum, pearl millet—in the world are affected by aflatoxins. In 2010, about 20,000 people died globally from aflatoxin poisoning and an equal number fell ill, says WHO.
By Milliam Murigi