Philippines: Technology vs aflatoxin now in the making, experts say

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Written by Danny O. Calleja / Correspondent   

Sunday, 05 April 2009 22:43

LEGAZPI CITY—Experts are developing a technology that would eliminate aflatoxin contamination plaguing the peanut industry

Their goal is for the industry to grow and expand its markets through high-quality products.

Aflatoxin is a compound produced by fungus in agriculture crops, especially peanuts, and in animal feeds that have been carelessly stored. Health experts say it can cause hepatitis and liver cancer.

Aflatoxin contamination has plagued the peanut industry. Its products are subjected to rigid testing and inspection to prevent the entry of highly contaminated products at the ports of entry in countries where they are shipped.

In the US and UK, the enforced maximum levels of aflatoxin in foods are 20 parts per billion (ppb) and four ppb respectively. Consumers, however, are demanding that export commodities susceptible to the contamination be pushed toward zero tolerance level.

In the Philippines, peanut product makers manufacturers simply have no methods and processes in place to reduce aflatoxin levels except by manual sorting of unprocessed peanuts to separate kernels that could be processed those that should be discarded.

A study by the Food Development Center (FDC) of the National Food Authority (NFA)  on how to best sort peanut kernels manually is said to yielded favorable results.

Department of Agriculture (DA) regional executive director for Bicol Jose Dayao said over the weekend the study was undertaken to develop a technology for manual sorting of peanut kernels to eliminate aflatoxin contamination.

The process was recently developed at the FDC using a prototype roaster to test the applicability of the procedure for blanching.

Results from the laboratory and pilot-scale tests and verification trials showed the manual sorting of raw peanuts was efficient in separating the contaminated kernels, Dayao said.

Sorting should be performed regardless of a negative test for aflatoxin, to ensure that aflatoxin contaminated kernels are removed, the study showed according to Dayao.

These results provided support in the transfer of the sorting technology to peanut-product manufacturers and companies that use peanuts as an ingredient especially were environmental conditions are favorable for mold growth, he explained.

If the technology is adopted by the food industry, it would protect consumers from the potential health threats of aflatoxin, the DA regional chief executive said.

The project is a joint effort of the University of Georgia (UGA) in the US, the Department of Food Science and Nutrition of the College of Home Economics of UP-Diliman in Quezon City, and the FDC-NFA in Taguig, Metro Manila.

The Peanut-Collaborative Research Support Program of UGA as the management entity under the provision of the United States Agency for International Development or USAid supported the undertaking, Dayao added.



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