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ICRISAT develops first low cost portable device to detect Alfatoxins in crops

27 Jul 2016

Hyderabad based global agriculture research body; International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has developed new low cost portable devices to detect aflatoxins in crops.

Hyderabad based global agriculture research body; International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has developed new low cost portable devices to detect aflatoxins in crops.

The rapid test kit device is also affordable at under US$ 2 and can save lives and open export markets for African and Asian countries, ICRISAT said in a statement.

ICRISAT also said that mobile extraction kit that will be ready in two months, will be the first portable cost-effective way for farmers and others to detect aflatoxins instantly.

It is a simple non-laboratory based kit that can be used directly by non-technical people such as farmers, agro-dealers and food processors. Currently, the test can be applied to detect aflatoxin in groundnuts.

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 research body said.

“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,” Dr Anitha Seetha, Scientist, ICRISAT, Malawi said.

Aflatoxin is carcinogenic. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 25% of all crops in the world are affected by aflatoxins. The WHO recently estimated that in 2010 around 20,000 people died globally from aflatoxin poisoning and an equal number fell ill.

Groundnut, maize, sorghum, pearl millet, chilies, pistachios, cassava and other food products are contaminated by aflatoxin each year. They not only affect human and livestock health but can also affect the marketability of food products. Many countries reject imports of agricultural products that exceed certain levels of aflatoxin, costing farmers millions of dollars every year.

Speaking on this development, David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT said, “ICRISAT has been working with smallholder farmers in Africa to combat the aflatoxin problem. This kit will enable rapid and cost-effective deployment by the government and private sector to protect public health and also improve the export prospects for African countries.”

Around 90 countries have regulations that establish maximum aflatoxin limits in food and feed products. The limits range from 4 ppb in the EU to 15 ppb in the USA.

Aflatoxin contaminated food can pose a serious health risk. Symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning include: liver cancer, fluid retention, increased incidence of Hepatitis B infection, and stunting in children. In poultry and livestock, aflatoxin can cause feed refusal, loss of weight, reduced egg production and contamination of milk. Tropical countries are primarily affected, which includes the majority of Africa, India and other south Asian countries.

With funding from the McKnight Foundation and in collaboration with partners including the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi-NASFAM, Farmers Union Malawi (FUM), Kamuzu Central Hospital and Nkhoma Hospital, Malawi, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) developed the rapid test kit for aflatoxins, ICRISAT statement adds.

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