(Tetum) Aflatoxin experts from Australia, Dr. Ivan Kennedy, Dr. Graeme Wright and Dr. Francisco Sanchez-Bayo from QTT technologies, spent a week last November training staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) on the use of a new quick test kit to measure Aflatoxin in maize, peanut and cassava.

© Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

Aflatoxin Quick Test reader © Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

‚ÄúNormally when you measure Aflatoxin in grains and food products you need sophisticated equipment such as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). This is very specialized equipment and is not currently available in Timor-Leste,‚ÄĚ said Dr. Wright.

‚ÄúThis new technology called the Aflatoxin Quick Test, is an anti-body based test.¬† This technique is very accurate and compares very well with the HPLC, but is a lot cheaper, easier to use, and doesn‚Äôt require any specialized equipment.¬† This Aflatoxin Quick Test will provide Timorese people with the capability to quickly and cheaply test different foods for Aflatoxin.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúWith the¬†Aflatoxin Quick Test¬†kit we can get a result in just 1 hour and it has 90% or better accuracy. It‚Äôs very easy to use and even with the short training provided, everyone already knows how to use it.”

Dorilanda Lopes, Seed Officer from Bobonaro municipality said that the training provided her with new skills.

‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a great opportunity to learn new techniques and this will greatly benefit my work as a Seed Officer. We already have the capacity to control seed quality and now with this new skill, we will know how to monitor and control food quality.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúThe test is not too difficult to do. The kit is also very handy so we can do the test on farm and share the results with farmers, because most of the farmers are not currently aware of this problem.‚ÄĚ

Aflatoxin training-35 © Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

© Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

Moreover, Luis Almeida, National Research Coordinator said that the kit is very helpful for his work.

‚ÄúFor Aflatoxin testing, I normally send the samples to Indonesia for HPLC analysis. But it is very expensive, costing around $120 per sample and takes some time to get the results.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúWith the Aflatoxin Quick Test kit we can get a result in just 1 hour and it has 90% or better accuracy. It‚Äôs very easy to use and even with the short training provided, everyone already knows how to use it.¬† We can also save money by first testing samples with suspected high level of Aflatoxin locally before sending them overseas for official HPLC validation.‚ÄĚ

© Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

© Yessy Betty/Seeds of Life

According to Dr Wright, the capacity to conduct Aflatoxin test locally will bring a lot of benefits in monitoring and controlling food safety in Timor.

‚ÄúWith simple technology like this more people, agronomists, crop scientists and labs can easily do this analysis, and even achieve it on farm. This will also allow government regulators to monitor, control, and minimize the food safety problem.¬† More people will become more aware on the impact of consuming Aflatoxin-contaminated food.‚ÄĚ

During the training, around 20 samples of maize and peanut and two samples of cassava were tested including a local brand of peanut butter. For validation of the results, a number of aflatoxin positive and negative samples will be sent to Australia for HPLC analysis for comparison purposes.