An Interview about Food Safety with Mrs. Esther Mutua
This post was written by Dr. Florence Mutua, Lecturer at the University of Nairobi and Visiting Scholar at the International Livestock Research Institute.
For food safety month, I decided to interview my mother, Mrs. Esther Mutua, who is interested in the topic. As we sit down, I go straight to the subject:
What do you think of food safety? Has it always been an issue? Reflecting on her early years, she quickly says, "Well, I know hygiene standards were low, we had no latrines, no one was bothered but food was always safe, we prepared bulky foods together, ate that together, yet no one became sick."
But previously, were there some problems that were associated with eating bad food? "The most common, and perhaps the most feared one, was anthrax, locally known as "ndulu," and cassava poisoning, especially in children."
I expected her to talk about maize and aflatoxins but she didn't, so I probed. Apparently this was not a problem in the old days. She is not sure of the situation now, but wonders why maize of today gets spoiled so fast, once rained on, even after being dried.
What usually happens to the spoiled maize? “Well, in this village, the usual practice is to throw bad maize to cows. Sometimes it is milled and used to feed chickens and dogs.”
I very well know the dangers of aflatoxins, so I chose to explain a bit more about why bad maize should not be given to animals, especially those being milked. I need to package the message well so she can relay it to her friends in the village, so I say:
Aflatoxins are poisons from molds which make the foods we eat and that for animals bad. If your cow eats the bad feed, it will produce milk that also has the poison. Drinking this milk can make you, your family and friends sick. The poison can also make your cow produce less. It is advisable not to give rotten maize or moldy feed to your animals. Also, do not prepare food from spoiled cereals, like rotten maize.
The interview is not even over but I can tell she is now eager to go back home and share this with her many friends in the village. I bet the first person to be told is Phyllis Katiti, her long-time friend and confidant.