From Soil to Sachet: Aflatoxin Control Starts on the Farm

From MFK Agriculture Research and Extension Program Specialist Ben Wiseman

MFK’s commitment to purchase Haitian peanuts creates ripples beyond the peanut marketplace.  Since MFK follows strict aflatoxin standards, MFK’s demand contributes to more widespread awareness and adoption of aflatoxin control methods within the peanut sector in Haiti.  (Aflatoxins are dangerous carcinogens that are produced by certain molds which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains.) MFK’s purchasing power creates an incentive for farmers and depot-operators to adopt aflatoxin control methods.

Since MFK’s inception, purchasing Haitian grown peanuts has been a pillar of its mission. When MFK first began Medika Mamba production, a few employees would go to the market and purchase what was available.  As MFK’s production facility expanded and became more sophisticated, its peanut purchasing expanded as well.  Today, MFK purchases peanuts by the ton, coordinating purchasing agreements with Haitian depot-operators, Haitian farmers, and other Haitian agriculture organizations.

Quality is a paramount consideration in peanut purchasing in Haiti.  In order for MFK to ensure our Medika Mamba contains only nutritious, toxin-free peanuts, MFK must be vigilant in screening peanuts at the time of purchase.  If you have followed MFK for some time, you know that many peanuts grown in Haiti contain aflatoxins which can contribute to stunting in children, reduce immune system function and lead to cancer.  MFK and international food safety regulations demand minimal aflatoxin in Medika Mamba.

MFK’s insistence on purchasing large quantities of low-aflatoxin peanuts from within Haiti requires MFK to work with each of its suppliers to limit aflatoxin contamination at its source.  A single ton of peanuts may include peanuts from ten or more different peanut farmers. Since aflatoxin contamination typically originates on the farm during the growing season or immediately after harvest, for each ton of peanuts sourced from small-holding farmers, ten farmers must adopt methods to prevent aflatoxin contamination in their peanuts.  The impact of our aflatoxin requirement within peanut growing regions of Haiti multiplies as MFK increases the number of tons of peanuts it purchases annually.

In response to MFK’s recent factory expansion, MFK is situated to expand its demand for Haitian-grown peanuts. Purchasing larger quantities of Haitian peanuts requires a concurrent expansion of aflatoxin control within the Haitian peanut sector.  Poor aflatoxin control in the peanut sector is a barrier to quick expansion of MFK’s purchasing, but it is also an opportunity for MFK to invest in food safety within the peanut sector.  MFK’s continued collaboration in grant-funded projects that target aflatoxin control, its ongoing farmer training program, and its various farmer-extension activities all contribute to reducing aflatoxin contamination in Haiti.

As MFK works to expand its purchasing, small peanut farmers, large peanut farmers, and peanut depot-operators also must expand their aflatoxin control methods.  Multiplying MFK’s peanut purchases in Haiti requires a similar increase in the number of farmers and depot-operators using improved techniques to produce and maintain toxin-free, nutritious peanuts.