In human beings, high aflatoxin levels depress the immune system, thereby contributing to many health problems ranging from cancer and susceptibility to HIV, to stunted growth among children. This led governments in Africa to band together to stop the spread of Aflatoxins in the continent. At an October 2016 meeting with the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), Ugandan President, H.E. Yoweri Museveni called for a collective effort among African countries to address aflatoxin challenges.
However, improved postharvest handling remains the most overlooked component for effectively preventing aflatoxin growth. In hot, humid climates, long term conventional storage can cause exponential growth of aflatoxins. It shows that restricting the increase in aflatoxin levels during both drying and storage is a major challenge, particularly under hot and humid conditions.
An increasingly popular and inexpensive alternative method for controlling aflatoxin growth during multi-month storage is using flexible, Ultra Hermetic™ storage containers. This storage technology relies on creating a conditions that will control increase in aflatoxin levels through the bio generation of low oxygen levels. For the successful application of Ultra Hermetic storage as well as for other storage methods, crops must be adequately dried, typically to a point below their ―critical moisture level (in equilibrium with 65% relative humidity).
This paper examines the prevention of the exponential growth of aflatoxin occurring in multi-month, postharvest storage in tropical countries, with examples from field experience and scientific data. Four approaches to modern, safe, postharvest storage methods are described, the most successful being the use of flexible, Ultra Hermetic™ airtight structures creating an unbreathable atmosphere (low oxygen, high carbon dioxide) through insect and microorganism respiration alone, without use of chemicals, fumigants, vacuum, or refrigeration.