A survey was conducted in Nairobi, Nyanza and Western provinces in Kenya between March and July 2009 with 1263 peanut products sampled out of which 705 samples underwent microbial analysis. The study aimed at determining the incidence of fungal species - emphasis on Aspergillus section Flavi - associated with peanut products. A 0.5kg representative sample was obtained from each surveyed vendor and the colony forming units (CFU) of fungal species determined. The samples were also analyzed for total aflatoxin level while isolates of A. flavus and A. parasiticus were screened for production of aflatoxin B1, B2, G1 and G2. Eight fungal species were detected in the samples and were in decreasing order of CFU/g of sample: A. flavus S-strain (467), A. flavus L-strain (341), Penicillium spp. (326), A. niger (156), A. tamari (27), A. alliaceus (21), A. parasiticus (10), and A. caelatus (5). The overall incidence of A. flavus S-strain in samples from Nairobi was 92 and 1425% higher than samples from Nyanza and Western regions, respectively. The combined incidence of A. flavus and A. parasiticus was varied significantly (p ≤ 0.05) with peanut product: peanut flour (69%), shelled raw peanuts (53%), spoilt peanuts (49%), boiled podded peanuts (45%), podded peanuts (39%), peanut butter (31%), fried peanuts (22%) and roasted peanuts (20%). Seventy three percent of A. flavus and A. parasiticus isolates produced at least one of the aflatoxin types, with 66% producing aflatoxin B1. The total aflatoxin level among peanut products ranged from 0 – 1629 µg/g; and there was a positive correlation (r = 0.2711) between the incidence of A. flavus and A. parasiticus, and total aflatoxin level. The high incidence of aflatoxin producing fungi in peanuts traded in Kenyan markets implies a risk of aflatoxin contamination, highlighting the need for stakeholders to promote sound practices at all stages of the peanut value chain in order to minimize market access by non-complying products.
Keywords: Aflatoxin; Aspergillus section Flavi; fungal species; peanuts.