The aflatoxin situation in Africa: Systematic literature review

Nathan Meijer*, Gijs Kleter, Monique de Nijs, Marie Luise Rau, Ria Derkx, H.J. van der Fels-Klerx

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Contamination of African staple foods is a major issue for human and animal health, nutrition, and trade. This review aimed to collect and synthesize the available evidence on geographical spread, scale of contamination, disease burden, economic impact, and mitigation measures for aflatoxins in Africa by way of a systematic literature review. This knowledge can enhance management strategies for the major challenges to combat aflatoxins. The search was conducted by applying a predefined search strategy, using bibliographic databases and websites, covering the period 2010 to 2018. Results showed that maize, peanuts, and animal feeds were the most studied commodities. For maize, all studies indicated mean AFB1 to exceed the European Union legal limit. From studies on contamination levels and biomarkers, it is clear that overall exposure is high, leading to a substantial increase in long-term disease burden. In addition, concentrations in food occasionally can reach very high levels, causing acute aflatoxicoses. The trade-related impact of aflatoxin contamination was mainly evaluated from the standpoint of aflatoxin regulation affecting products imported from Africa. There was a limited number of studies on health-related economic impacts, pointing out a gap in peer-reviewed literature. A number of mitigation measures have been developed, but proof of cost-effectiveness or even costs alone of the practices is often lacking. We recommend more emphasis to be put in peer-reviewed studies on evidence-based cost-effective mitigation strategies for aflatoxins, on the scale and spread of the problem and its impacts on public health and economics for use in evidence-based policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2286-2304
Number of pages19
JournalComprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • economic effects
  • health effects
  • mitigation
  • mycotoxin
  • scale


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