Aflatoxin, a type of mycotoxin, contamination may impair gut permeability, reduce nutrient bioavailability and exacerbate micronutrient deficiency. Considering the potential health risks of mycotoxins and microbes (such as E. sakazakii, Total coliforms and E. coli) we implemented this study to assess potential risks for contamination of complementary food (CF) produced in a community-based pilot project in four regions of Ethiopia.
Relevant knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) were assessed using structured questionnaires among 200 mothers/ caregivers of young children. Moreover, 146 CF samples from 20 pilot sites (pre-milling=66, immediately post-production=20, one-month post-production=40 and purposely selected moldy= 20) were tested for E. sakazakii, Total coliforms, E. coli and total aflatoxins. Hazards Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) protocols were developed to ensure safe CF preparation.
Total Aflatoxins were detected in almost all (140 out of 146) of the samples. Although only, 5 out of 146 samples surpassed the maximum limit (10 ppb), even such a level may cause health problems to young children. The levels of total Aflatoxin and microbes increased during the 1 month’s storage in households and grain banks across all the regions. KAP indicated that many families feed moldy staples to animals and children; all moldy samples collected contained unsafe levels of mycotoxins.
These findings indicate serious risks to young children directly or through animals fed contaminated staples from household and through the pilot CF production. Thus, the HACCP based protocols developed need to be implemented strictly to ensure the safety of CFs and minimize the adverse effects caused in young children and their families.