Determination of aflatoxin contamination in spices marketed in Kampala supermarkets
Mutumba, Peggy Anastacia
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Spices have been widely used since ancient times for their unique flavoring, coloring, and aromatizing properties. Their beneficial effect on human health is valued both in traditional and modern medicine. Nonetheless, these spices are prone to aflatoxin contamination since they are largely produced in countries with tropical climates that are favorable for growth of molds. Aflatoxins are a group of structurally related toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic mycotoxins that contaminate large numbers of food and agricultural products. They are produced predominantly by A. flavus and A. parasiticus and the six major aflatoxins include, aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), aflatoxin B2 (AFB2), aflatoxin G1 (AFG1), aflatoxin G2 (AFG2), aflatoxin M1 (AFM1), and aflatoxin M2 (AFM2). Human exposure to aflatoxins has resulted into deleterious health effects including acute aflatoxicosis and chronic exposure leading to liver cancer with 8.19 cases reported per 100,000 inhabitants in Africa annually. This study was carried to determine the presence of aflatoxins in powdered spices, specifically chili, turmeric and garlic marketed in Kampala supermarkets. The samples used in the study were collected from two of the largest supermarkets in Kampala, Mega standard supermarket and Carrefour supermarket. The samples were extracted for aflatoxins and screened for presence of aflatoxins using Thin Layer Chromatography method. Results obtained show that all the spice samples (100%) in the study were contaminated with at least one type of aflatoxin. Aflatoxin B was detected in all the garlic samples (100%), in 1 of 10 turmeric samples (10%) and in 4 of 10 chili samples (40%) whereas Aflatoxin G was detected in 4 of 10 garlic samples (40%), all the turmeric samples (100%) and in 9 of 10 chili samples (90%). The results obtained from this study, therefore, raise a safety concern to the consumers of these spices, majority of whom have very little or no knowledge about the dangers of consuming foods/spices contaminated with mycotoxins.