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
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.