Authorities on different levels of government should introduce tougher measures in handling grains to reduce the negative effects mismanagement has on human health and the economy, nutritionists have said.
They say the laxity in the management of grains at different levels of the grain level chain produced huge amounts of aflatoxins in food consumed by Uganda which has led to rising cases of food-related cancers.
Prof. Archileo Kaaya, a senior nutritionist and lecturer at the department of Food Technology and Nutrition, Makerere University, said contaminated foods have not only affected human health, but also the economy in terms of wastage.
He, thus, noted it is high time the government introduced tougher measures such as roadblocks and imprisonment of culprits to prevent carelessness among some stakeholders handing food.
“People should be imprisoned so that they start to fear and ensure quality. I would love the government to revive the “Kibooko” movement, where people were beaten for mishandling coffee in the 1960s. It worked when our coffee was rejected on the international market because of ochratoxins. Otherwise, cancer cases are increasing every day because of the toxins and heavy metals,” he said.
A 2018 study by Scientific African Journal on mycotoxins contamination in foods consumed in Uganda, showed that aflatoxin contamination reduces economic growth by 0.26% in Uganda owing to a decline in productivity.
Kenya, which is one of Uganda’s leading grain trading partners, has on several occasions banned Ugandan maize citing the presence of aflatoxins.
Kaaya was speaking during the training of maize millers on the proper management of grain at Kisenyi, Kampala on Monday. The training was conducted by the Eastern African Grain Council, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), and Makerere University.
Strong management system
He said a large number of players in the grain value chain poses makes it susceptible to mismanagement, hence calling for the building of a system that manages all key stakeholders.
Kaaya also called for more mobilization on proper grain management at all levels of the value chain, ranging from the farmers, transporters, traders, millers, and retailers to consumers.
“Extension officers should ensure that the problem is controlled at the farm. Those who are transporting should be given the standard operating procedures on how to handle the grain. The one milling should ensure that it is not contaminated with any foreign substance that affects the final product,” he said.
Uganda has developed some aflatoxin standards for gains, including US EAS 2:2017 for maize. These aflatoxin standards have also been harmonized with the East African Community standards.
Paul Ochuna, team leader of EAGC in Uganda, said while there has been improvement in post-harvest handling of grain due to interventions by different stakeholders including government and development partners, many traders are still unaware of the acceptable quality procedures.
He said that much of the grain that is procured is not tested for quality, and therefore what is milled can be harmful to human health.
The training, which converged maize millers, focused on aflatoxin testing, detection, and control as well as gain quality and product certification.
Last year, UNBS cracked down on uncertified maize millers in a nationwide enforcement operation.
Sauda Kabuuka, a member of the Kisenyi Millers Association, said efforts should be focused on sensitizing the smallholder farmers to avoid loss for them and the transporters since the millers are mandated to check the quality before buying.
“The Local Council in the villages should ensure the maize is handled the right way, is dried well, and doesn’t have stones or other dirt. However, the other challenge is the grain being accepted elsewhere when we have rejected it here. There should also be compliance among all millers,” she said.