Source: International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA
Over 90% of the milk and dairy products consumed on the archipelago are imported. After a year of collaboration with the IAEA and FAO, the laboratory was able to detect levels of aflatoxins M1 above the acceptable limit in 12 types of imported milk products. The suspected products were immediately recalled, pending confirmation of the lab’s diagnosis from an international reference laboratory. More than 90% of the suspected samples were confirmed positive to aflatoxins M1 by the reference laboratory, demonstrating the reliability of the testing capabilities now established at the Seychelles Public Health Laboratory.
Produced by fungi, aflatoxins are a major public health and trade concern globally, as they increase the risk of cancer, especially liver cancer, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Aflatoxins can also cause acute sickness or toxicity in humans. Therefore, their presence in food products should be regulated and monitored using reliable laboratories, said James Sasanya, Food Safety Specialist at the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.
Before the incident with contaminated milk, the national food regulations on contaminants and toxins in food or feed in the Seychelles did not include any limit of aflatoxin M1 concentration in milk and milk products. This has now changed with the amendment in 2019 of the national Food Safety Act. “Under the new provisions, there is now a clear legal basis for removing contaminated milk products from the market, both wholesale and retail, with immediate effect,” said Jude Gédéon, Public Health Commissioner.
The amendment also requires importers to provide the Public Health Authority legitimate proof, through a health certificate, that their imported milk is free of contaminants, such as unsafe levels of aflatoxin M1 as well as residues.