Characterisation of the electrochemical properties of maize grain contaminated with Aflatoxin.
Muga, Francis Collins.
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Aflatoxin contamination of maize is a serious problem in Sub-Saharan Africa since it causes several negative health implications and in some cases death. A number of methods have been developed to detect the presence of aflatoxin in maize and thus limit dietary exposure to the toxin. However, these methods require skill and expensive equipment which makes them inaccessible to smallholder farmers who make up the majority of maize producers in Sub-Saharan Africa. This review presents literature on maize production, consumption and storage in Africa. It also examines the aflatoxin contamination of maize, its health effects and methods of detection. Finally the review presents literature on the electrical properties of maize with the aim of identifying the properties that are sensitive to aflatoxin contamination. The review indicates that maize consumption is predominant in Eastern and Southern Africa where it is the most important source of calories. The hot and humid conditions across Sub-Saharan Africa coupled with poor grain storage promote the growth of Aspergillus flavus and aflatoxin production in maize. Aflatoxin detection is usually done using chromatographic techniques or immunological methods for rapid screening. A few spectroscopic techniques have also been developed for aflatoxin screening. These methods are however expensive and require skilled personnel. It is necessary to develop easier and cheaper methods for aflatoxin detection. A. flavus consumes nutrients from the maize grain besides producing aflatoxin hence changing the chemical composition of the grain. The dielectric properties of grains can be influenced by these changes in chemical composition. Moisture content has the greatest influence on the dielectric properties of maize while starch, proteins and fats generally have low dielectric properties. The research proposal presented in this document seeks to characterize the chemical and electrical properties of aflatoxin contaminated maize by assessing the effect of different maize sample treatments on its chemical compositing and dielectric properties under different conditions.