Cereals and legumes, the main ingredients used in the preparation of complementary foods in Ghana, have been associated with aflatoxin contamination. This study aimed to determine aflatoxin contamination levels in cereal-based complementary foods on the Ghanaian market. A cross-sectional survey design over a two-week period was used to sample 48 commercial complementary food brands on an as available-basis from supermarkets or mini-marts in all 10 regions of Ghana. A tablet-assisted aflatoxin mobile Assay (mReader) that uses Reveal Q+ test strips (Neogen Corporation) was used to quantify the level of aflatoxin in the samples. All samples were contaminated with aflatoxin. Concentrations in cereal-legume blends ranged from 1 to 1094 ppb while those in cereal-only samples ranged from 1 to 11.7 ppb. The lowest aflatoxin concentrations were recorded in samples from the Upper East region with a mean of 1.5 ppb (1 to 3.8 ppb) while the highest were in samples from the Central region with a mean concentration of 457 ppb (6.6–1094 ppb). Aflatoxin concentrations in approximately a third of the infant formulations sampled exceeded the acceptable standard of 20 ppb, some by a factor of over 5 (100 ppb), and may contribute to the perennial malnutrition (stunting and iron deficiency) prevalent among children in Ghana.
This is a preview of subscription content,to check access.
Access this article
Africa Nutrition Chartbooks (2005). Nutrition of young children and mothers in Ghana: Findings from the 2003 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey. (pp. 1–91). Calverton, Maryland, USA: ORC Macro,Calverton, Maryland, USA.
Aheto, J. M. K., Keegan, T. J., Taylor, B. M., & Diggle, P. J. (2015). Childhood malnutrition and its determinants among under-five children in Ghana. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 29(6), 552–561. https://doi.org/10.1111/ppe.12222.
Amissah, O. B., Ayim, R. K., Biney, E., & Delu, J. K. (2017). Relationship between groundnut (Arachis hypogea L.) pricing and variety on aflatoxin levels in Ghana. BSc, University for Development Studies, Ghana,
Awuah, R. T., & Kpodo, K. A. (1996). High incidence of aspergillus flavus and aflatoxins in stored groundnuts in Ghana and the use of microbial assay to assess the inhibitory effects of plant extracts on aflatoxin synthesis. Mycopathologia, 134, 109–114.
Bandyopadhyay, R., Kumar, M., & Leslie, J. F. (2007). Relative severity of aflatoxin contamination of cereal crops in West Africa. Food Additives and Contaminants, 24, 1109–1114.
Castelino, J. M., Routledge, M. N., Wilson, S., Dunne, D. W., Mwatha, J. K., Gachuhi, K., Wild, C. P., & Gong, Y. Y. (2015). Aflatoxin exposure is inversely associated with IGF1 and IGFBP3 levels in vitro and in Kenyan schoolchildren. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 59(3), 574–581. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201300619.
Covic, N., & Hendriks, S. L. (2016). Achieving a nutrition revolution for Africa: The road to healthier diets and optimal nutrition. ReSAKSS Annual Trends and Outlook Report 2015. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), https://doi.org/10.2499/9780896295933.
Doehlert, D. C., Wicklow, D. T., & Gardner, H. W. (1993). Evidence implicating the lipoxygenase pathway in providing resistance to soybeans against Aspergillus flavus. Phytopathology, 83, 1473–1477.
Egal, S., Hounsa, A., Gong, Y. Y., Turner, P. C., Wild, C. P., Hall, A. J., Hell, K., & Cardwell, K. F. (2005). Dietary exposure to aflatoxin from maize and groundnut in young children from Benin and Togo, West Africa. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 104(2), 215–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2005.03.004.
Godfray, H. C. J., Beddington, J. R., Crute, I. R., Haddad, I., Lawrence, D., Muir, J. F., et al. (2010). Food security: The challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science, 327, 812–818.
Gong, Y., Egal, S., Hounsa, A., Turner, P., Hall, A., Cardwell, K., & Wild, C. P. (2003). Determinants of aflatoxin exposure in young children from Benin and Togo, West Africa: The critical role of weaning. International Journal of Epidemiology, 32(4), 556–562. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyg109.
Gong, Y., Hounsa, A., Egal, S., Turner, P. C., Sutcliffe, A. E., Hall, A. J., Cardwell, K., & Wild, C. P. (2004). Postweaning exposure to aflatoxin results in impaired child growth: A longitudinal study in Benin, West Africa. Environmental Health Perspectives, 112(13), 1334–1338. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.6954.
Gong, Y. Y., Cardwell, K., Hounsa, A., Egal, S., Turner, P. C., Hall, A. J., & Wild, C. P. (2002). Dietary aflatoxin exposure and impaired growth in young children from Benin and Togo: Cross sectional study. British Medical Journal, 325, 20–21.
Gong, Y. Y., Turner, P. C., Hall, A. J., & Wild, C. P. (2008). Aflatoxin exposure and impaired child growth in West Africa: An unexplored international public health burden? , 53–66.
Gong, Y. Y., Watson, S., & Routledge, M. N. (2016). Aflatoxin exposure and associated human health effects, a review of epidemiological studies. Food Safety, 4(1), 14–27. https://doi.org/10.14252/foodsafetyfscj.2015026.
Huffman, S. L., & Schofield, D. (2011). Consequences of malnutrition in early life and strategies to improve maternal and child diets through targeted fortified products. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 7, 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00348.x.
Kiarie, G. M., Dominguez-Salas, P., Kang’ethe, S. K., Grace, D., & Lindahl, J. (2016). Aflatoxin exposure among young children in urban low-income areas of Nairobi and association with child growth. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, 16(3), 10967–10990. https://doi.org/10.18697/ajfand.75.ILRI02.
Kumar, P., Mahato, D. K., Kamle, M., Mohanta, T. K., & Kang, S. G. (2017). Aflatoxins: A global concern for food safety, human health and their management. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.02170.
Kumi, J., Dotse, E., Asare, G. A., & Ankrah, N.-A. (2015). Urinary aflatoxin M1 exposure in Ghanaian children weaned on locally prepared nutritional food. African Journal of Science and Research, 4(6), 28–32.
Lombard, M. J. (2014). Mycotoxin exposure and infant and young child growth in Africa: What do we know? Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 64, 42–52. https://doi.org/10.1159/000365126.
Obuseh, F. A., Jolly, P. E., Jiang, Y. E., Shuaib, F. M. B., Waterbor, J., Ellis, W. O., et al. (2010). Aflatoxin B1 albumin adducts in plasma and aflatoxin M1 in urine are associated with plasma concentrations of vitamins a and E. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 80, 355–368.
Okoth, S. A., & Ohingo, M. (2004). Dietary aflatoxin exposure and impaired growth in young children from Kisumu District, Kenya: Cross sectional study. African Journal of Health Sciences, 11, 43–54.
Shephard, G. S. (2008). Impact ofmycotoxins on human health in developing countries. Food Additives and Contaminants, 25(2), 146–151. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030701567442.
Shuaib, F. M. B., Jolly, P. E., Ehiri, J. E., Jiang, Y., Ellis, W. O., Stiles, J. K., et al. (2010). Association between anemia and aflatoxin B1 biomarker levels among pregnant women in Kumasi. Ghana. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 83(5), 1077–1083. https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.2010.09-0772.
Sirma, A., Senerwa, D., Grace, D., Makita, K., Mtimet, N., Kang’ethe, E., et al. (2016). Aflatoxin B1 occurrence in millet, sorghum and maize from four agro-ecological zones in Kenya. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition & Development, 16(3), 10991–11003.
Soro-Yao, A. A., Brou, K., Amani, G., Thonart, P., & Djè, K. M. (2014). The use of lactic acid Bacteria starter cultures during the processing of fermented cereal-based foods in West Africa: A review. Tropical Life Sciences Research, 25(2), 81–100.
Stossel, P. (1986). Aflatoxin contamination in soybeans: Role of proteinase inhibitors, zinc availability. and seed coat integrity. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 5(1), 68–72.
Temba, M. C., Njobeh, P. B., & Kayitesi, E. (2016). Storage stability of maize-groundnut composite flours and an assessment of aflatoxin B1 and ochratoxin a contamination in flours and porridges. Food Control, 71, 178–186. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2016.06.033.
UNICEF, WHO, & Bank, W. (2012). Joint child malnutrition estimates - levels and trends. Geneva: World Health Organization.
Wagacha, J. M., & Muthomi, J. W. (2008). Mycotoxin problem in Africa: Current status, implications to food safety and health and possible management strategies. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 124(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2008.01.008.
Watson, S., Chen, G., Sylla, A., Routledge, M. N., & Gong, Y. Y. (2015). Dietary exposure to aflatoxin and micronutrient status among young children from Guinea. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 60, 511–518. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201500382.
WHO & UNICEF (2008). Strengthening action to improve feeding of infants and young children 6-23 months of age in nutrition and child health programmes: Report of proceedings (W. Department of Child and Adolescent Health and development, W. Department of Nutrition for health and development, & U. nutrition section, trans.). Geneva, Switzerland: WHO.
The authors wish to acknowledge IFPRI for the provision of equipment for aflatoxin tests. Author Francis Kweku Amagloh (PhD) provided money for the purchase of the samples in all 10 regions of the study.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Human or animal studies
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects.
About this article
Cite this article
Opoku, N., Achaglinkame, M.A. & Amagloh, F.K. Aflatoxin content in cereal-legume blends on the Ghanaian market far exceeds the permissible limit. Food Sec. 10, 1539–1545 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-018-0849-5