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Rwanda issues stern aflatoxin directive

by Grace Kisembo

The Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA) released the directive that by the end of May, warehouse owners, wholesalers, and factories dealing in legumes, cereals, cassava, and livestock feed must have aflatoxin testing facilities.

It allows agriculture supply dealers to use facilities to screen for aflatoxin, a naturally occurring toxic agent, before accepting, storing, or even processing these agricultural supplies.

According to the statement signed by Beatrice Uwumukiza, the Acting Director-General of RICA, the decision is based on the prevalence of these harmful toxins in some traded agricultural commodities. It is aimed to prevent their spread.

“RICA informs all warehouse operators, wholesalers, producers, processors, and importers of legumes, cereals, cassava, livestock products, animal feed, that it is prohibited to receive, store, process or import the mentioned commodities for sale/trade if the owner does not have aflatoxin testing facilities,” reads part of the statement.

Warehouses have also been ordered to comply with storage regulatory requirement.

Any person or company which tests the commodity and finds the presence of aflatoxins is required to record and report all the details about the consignments in question to RICA through email info@rica.gov.rw.

RICA said process owners operating without meeting the requirements will be punished according to the legal provisions.

So far, only major firms in the country such as Africa Improved Foods (AIF) and MINIMEX which process maize, test aflatoxin levels in commodities.

Generally, food items such as maize that are traded in local commodity markets are not tested for aflatoxins, and dealers do not have the technology to do so.

This situation has created a gap in food safety regulation, which can lead to the consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated foods.

While some locally produced maize meets tolerable levels of aflatoxins, some maize is rejected by major agro-processing firms because it is highly contaminated with aflatoxins.

It is to note that aflatoxins have been a major public food safety concern both in the region and globally.

The prevalence of aflatoxins is increasingly becoming a major concern within the East African Community.

For instance, in February 2021, Kenya suspended maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania over what it described as high levels of aflatoxins that are beyond safety limits, saying that they were not fit for human consumption.

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