Health risk assessment of food borne mycotoxigenic fungi and mycotoxins in staple foods in rural northern Namibia

hand holdig up two green leaves in front of diffuse green background © BOKU/Melcher Andreas

Cooperating countries: Namibia and Austria

Coordinating institution: University of Namibia (Namibia), Prof. Jane Misihairabgwi, 

Partner institution: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (Austria)

Project duration: 1 June 2021 - 31 May 2023


Cereal grains and legumes are important staple foods in rural subsistence farming households in Namibia. Owing to subtropical climatic conditions favoring fungal growth, and lack of necessary agricultural expertise regarding pre- and postharvest crop management, fungal infestation of these staple foods and subsequent mycotoxin contamination is a prominent food safety challenge in these communities. Traditional and conventional practices for food processing and storage do not guarantee protection against fungal infestation, resulting in food losses, and consumption of mycotoxin contaminated food. Food and nutrition security is threatened, while chronic consumption of mycotoxin contaminated food poses human health risks. Human exposure to mycotoxins, which are secondary fungal metabolites, may result in acute mycotoxicosis or chronic exposure effects like esophageal and liver cancer, immune system suppression, adverse effects on female reproduction and growth impairment in children. Monitoring of mycotoxin exposure and assessment of health risks in low socio-economic rural communities where dietary diversity is limited and frequency of consumption of mycotoxin prone foods is high, is necessary. The project is mainly aimed at assessing the magnitude of mycotoxigenic fungal infestation of staple foods, mycotoxin contamination and associated health risks. Specifically, the project will focus on surveillance field studies, mycological and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectroscopy analysis to determine the magnitude of contamination of mycotoxigenic fungi and mycotoxins in the staple foods, and development of community specific viable and sustainable postharvest mycotoxin reduction strategies. The magnitude of human exposure to multiple mycotoxins will be determined using urinary biomarkers and probable daily intake deterministic methods.