In Africa, the vast majority of consumers – poor and wealthy alike – are not aware that they might be consuming aflatoxin-contaminated foods, or that these foods could be exposing them to risk of disease. Larger agribusinesses are usually aware of the problems associated with aflatoxins, but small and medium‐sized businesses may not be. And, there is a lack of incentives for sourcing materials that contain safe levels of aflatoxins, and systems to provide such materials.
Enhancing awareness among consumers of the health risks posed by aflatoxins could create demand for aflatoxin‐safe foods. It could also engender a willingness to pay a premium for foods that are certified safe.
But there is a risk that, in creating a two-tier market – made up of more expensive, certified aflatoxin‐safe foods and cheaper foods that might contain unsafe levels of aflatoxins – the exposure of poor people to contaminated foods might increase. And, small-scale producers, often women, who are unable to meet standards for aflatoxin-safe products, could end up being excluded from markets.
To tackle these challenges, PACA will promote a combination of incentives, harmonized standards that are rigorously enforced, and alternative uses for contaminated material that safeguard health while facilitating trade. These approaches fall under two main aims:
- To facilitate growth in the trade of food and feed containing safe levels of aflatoxin
- To create incentives that encourage positive behaviours with respect to aflatoxin management
Facilitating growth in the trade of safe food and feed
For farmers and food processors, an understanding of the benefits compared to the costs of measures to reduce aflatoxin contamination could catalyze action to tackle the problem. PACA will therefore work with agri-industry representatives, trade bodies and researchers to conduct a cost–benefit analysis. The Partnership will also promote wider use of risk-based approaches to achieve better control of aflatoxins along value chains.
PACA intends to help identify potentially viable markets that are currently constrained by aflatoxin contamination. It will then promote the adoption of appropriate technologies and certification procedures that would open up these markets to African products.
The Partnership will also identify and help projects and organizations that are already involved in value chain development and which could benefit from better aflatoxin control. In particular, PACA will promote public–private partnerships that focus on market development.
Creating incentives that encourage positive behaviours
PACA aims to achieve a balanced combination of incentives and penalties that together drive a shift towards behaviour to reduce aflatoxin contamination. Working with regulatory authorities, standard-setting agencies and commodity exchanges and other private-sector bodies, PACA will promote the development and enforcement of standards, and practical and fairways of dealing with products that fail to meet these standards.
PACA will also investigate the usefulness of certification schemes for aflatoxin-safe food and feed products. The Partnership will pay special attention to the risk of creating a two-tier market, with safe foods available to better-off consumers and potentially contaminated foods channelled to the poor.
Awareness-raising is a key part of changing behaviour. PACA will, therefore, work with producers and processors to raise awareness of the standards being developed, the means to meet these standards, and the benefits of doing so. The Partnership will also work with businesses to help them develop and apply means of verification that enable them to purchase only compliant materials.
Finally, PACA will develop, promote and facilitate safe and economically viable uses for batches of agricultural commodities that exceed levels of aflatoxins permitted for human consumption. Possible uses for such materials include blending with batches of material that have lower levels of aflatoxin, processing the contaminated material to reduce aflatoxin levels, and finding alternative uses such as processing into biofuel.
As a last resort, batches of highly contaminated material may need to be destroyed through burial or incineration. PACA will advocate that, in these cases, producers should be compensated to encourage compliance.