Samples of unrecorded opaque beers (n=58; 40 based on maize, 5 on sorghum and 13 on other plants) and recorded wines (n=8) in Kenya were screened for aflatoxins using a rapid ELISA technique followed by confirmation using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Six of the maize beers were obtained from Kibera slums in Nairobi County. Aflatoxin contamination was detected in six unrecorded beers (10%), but in none of the recorded wines. Remarkably, three of the aflatoxin positive samples were from the Kibera slums.
The concentration of aflatoxins in the positive samples had a mean of 3.5 µg/L (range 1.8–6.8 µg/L), corresponding for an average consumption of 500 mL (1 standard drink) to a margin of exposure (MOE) of 36 (range: 15–58), which is considered as risk. On the other hand, the alcoholic strength of the aflatoxin positive samples had a mean of 4.3% vol (range 3.5-4.8%) corresponding to a MOE of 2.5 (range of 2.2-3.0) for the equivalent consumption volume. While aflatoxins pose a risk to the consumer, this risk is about 10 times lower than the risk of ethanol.
The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives sets no acceptable daily intake for aflatoxins since they are genotoxic carcinogens and instead recommends for the reduction of aflatoxin dietary exposure as an important public health goal, particularly in populations who consume high levels of any potentially aflatoxins contaminated food. Nevertheless, ethanol still posed a considerably higher risk in the unrecorded beers examined. However, consumers should be informed about aflatoxins, as these are an involuntary and unknown risk to them. In addition, producers should be educated about measures to reduce aflatoxins.