Effects of Storage Conditions of Aspergillus Growth and Aflatoxin Production in Peanuts. A Study in Ghana
Peanuts (Arachis-hypogaea) are one of the staples in Ghana, Sub-Saharan Africa, and other developing countries. This leguminous crop is frequently contaminated with aflatoxins, which are secondary metabolites of some Aspergillus fungi, mostly Aspergillus. flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Aflatoxins in foods are known to cause liver cancer, stunted growth in children, immune system disorders and economic losses. Aflatoxin contamination of peanuts during storage is worse in the tropics because climatic storage conditions there are almost the same as the optimum conditions for Aspergillus growth: temperature conditions of about 26-43 °C and relative humidity of 62-99%. This study investigated the growth of Aspergillus and the production of aflatoxin in shelled peanuts under varying treatment and packaging conditions. In addition, the appropriate pre-storage treatments and packaging needed to reduce aflatoxin production and to maintain quality of shelled and in-shell peanuts in storage under tropical environments were studied. Another aim was to determine the impact of the switch to hermetic storage on peanut farming and marketing profitability in Ghana.
Different peanut treatments, with and without Aspergillus flavus fungi, were packaged in different systems; specifically, polypropylene woven sacks and hermetic packaging. Peanuts were analyzed for fungi growth, aflatoxin production and lipid oxidation (peroxide value and p-Anisidine value).
Partial roasting and blanching of peanuts eliminated aflatoxigenic fungi and halted aflatoxin production in stored peanuts, increased the effectiveness of peanut sorting and, hence, helped reduce or eliminate aflatoxin levels along the peanut value chain. Additionally, the results of this study demonstrated that hermetic storage, by suppressing aflatoxin production, has the potential for maintaining peanut quality vis a vis polypropylene woven packaging. Profitability analysis conducted as part of this study revealed that the use of the hermetic storage system would not only improve farmer and trader profits, but also reduce the incidence of various ailments attributed to aflatoxins.