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Contaminated peanut butter in the supermarket shelves - English Translation

By Jeanty Gerard
Le Nouvelliste, Haiti

“There’s peanut butter (mamba) sold in supermarkets in Port-au-Prince that has a very high level of aflatoxin contamination,” reveals a study by Cell Research and Reflection in the context of a research project funded by the Haitian government to the tune of US $2,000.

The results of this study were presented Friday at Karibe Hotel, during a workshop organized by the "Feed the Future" program on the need to address mycotoxins as a priority in Haiti. Conducted last December , this study should lead to the survey and mapping of the peanut value chain. It also focused on the supply chain for this product.  For this study, peanut samples were collected taken from farmers plots in La Gonâve . Next, three samples of peanut butter from supermarkets in Port- au-Prince were analyzed. According to the study , 45% of shelled nuts had aflatoxin content greatly exceeding the limits . Using European standards, the other 55% exceeded the maximum limits for aflatoxin but were acceptable according to US standards.

“If in some plots, there are nut samples that are not contaminated or at least whose aflatoxin levels do not exceed the recommended limits; on others they have aflatoxin exceeding the tolerable limits,” said Lemane Delva, Coordinator Cell Research and Reflection, focusing on the existing variability in the plots.“Since at plot level, there are contaminated peanuts, there is no chance that peanut butter test results will not be contaminated too. Contamination is also possible throughout the production and processing chain,” commented Lemane Delva, stressing that the problem is remediable. Aflatoxins can also be found in milk, corn, almonds, figs, coconut, and sorghum.

During the workshop, other researchers reported statistics regarding the number of people exposed to aflatoxin worldwide. In Haiti, statistics are available for some regions. “In Haiti, in the rural area of Cap Haitien, 22% of people participating in research studies have aflatoxin in their urine. In Port-au-Prince, in the GHESKIO clinics, 14% of people providing urine samples have been exposed to aflatoxin,” argued Dan Brown Cornell University, highlighting cases up to 95% in some countries Africa.

A native of Haiti and originally from Germany, Dr. Jogger Harvey is currently working in Kenya where he has established a laboratory to study toxins in food. “We have found maize varieties that are resistant to aflatoxin. We have a team that conducts research in Haiti to find foods with toxins. We also promote resistant varieties. It must be said that 4 billion people are exposed to the harms of aflatoxin worldwide,” said Jogger Harvey Jogger, noting that aflatoxins are highly carcinogenic.

Also speaking at the workshop, Jamie Rhoads, assistant director of PMIL (Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab), revealed some problems in groundnut production in Haiti. “There is significant aflatoxin contamination in peanuts in Haiti. It is a very serious problem. We must address this problem immediately because people use contaminated nuts to make peanut butter,” said Rhoads, adding that the yield per hectare is limited with respect to the production of peanuts in Haiti despite enormous potential. According to the assistant director, Haitian producers do not benefit from the support of experts to offer quality production.

Original article in French.

Published June 12, 2015