The Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, has said that 25 percent of diseases in Nigeria are caused by mycotoxins.
Ikeazor said this on Wednesday in Abuja at a two-day workshop on the prevention and control of mycotoxins in the food and the environment organised by the Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON)
Mycotoxins are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of moulds (fungi). They can grow on foodstuffs such as cereals, nuts spices and more.
Ikeazor noted that there were increased adverse health effects of mycotoxins on occupants of residential, office buildings, schools, agricultural and non-agricultural settings including food and food products in Nigeria.
The minister, who was represented by her Special Adviser Dr. Priscilla Achakpa, charged environmental health experts to take sensitisation campaign to local communities on the danger of consuming food products contaminated with mycotoxins.
She noted that the campaigns should be targeted at the farmers at the grassroots so they could be educated and informed on the occurrence and effects of mycotoxins in food and the environment.
She explained that the exposure to moulds and their toxic mycotoxins in food and the environment posed a great risk to human health.
“We must all be worried about the risk of environmental exposures experienced by those that consume or are exposed to food and food products that are contaminated with mycotoxins.
“ The ingestion of mycotoxin through food and inhalation of mycotoxins and other contaminants in the air might result in lung damage, allergic reactions such as irritation in the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin, and sometimes headaches.
“Exposure to all these contaminants could have harmful effects on vital organs and consequently on the overall human health and productivity,’’ she said.
The minister, therefore, urged the environmental health officers to educate people on the negative effects of moulds and mycotoxins contamination in their environment.
She further charged participants of the workshop to exchange ideas and come up with skills to monitor and detect safety risks associated with exposure to mycotoxin contamination and measure to containing it.
Dr. Yakubu Baba, Registrar, EHORECON, stated that mycotoxin was a public health responsibility accounting for about 25 percent of diseases in the country.
Baba said the council was preparing its practitioners to be sufficiently knowledgeable to be able to effectively enlighten the public on the negative effects of mycotoxins in food and the environment.
The workshop, according to him will help reduce mortality and incidence of mycotoxins in the communities as well as providing the mobility of our farm products to the international market.
“This will have value addition to service delivery as it will enhance our economy, tailored towards President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of food security.
“It will also provide platforms where the youths are going to be engaged and take them out of poverty. So, it also has security solutions.
“The environmental health practitioners drawn from the sector of the food industry and food inspection will scale down this training to various communities so that people can be enlightened in the way to store their food and process the food for consumption in a safer way, ‘’ he said.