Sep 18, 2012, updated April 2014
Nestlé’s sustainable agriculture strategy is designed to ensure a steady supply of safe, high-quality agricultural commodities and allow rural communities to increase their income as a result. One of our priorities in this area is to reduce the high levels of mycotoxins in cereals, dried fruits and nuts from Central and West Africa, as this natural, fungus-based contamination can cause immune suppression, impaired development in children and liver damage in both humans and animals. Up to 30% of cereal crops are lost to contamination, caused largely by the humid environment and poor drying and storage practices.
Locally produced cereal grains and legumes (beans, peas, etc) are important to our business, and particularly for our breakfast cereal brands like Golden Morn, Cerelac and Nutrend. Our Central and West Africa business therefore launched the Grains Quality Improvement Project, in conjunction with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, to reduce mycotoxin contamination levels in Ghana and Nigeria by 60%.
This reduction will be achieved through a combination of:
- toxin-reduction strategies such as good agricultural and storage practices, developed in
co-operation with national extension partners;
- capacity-building training sessions from Nestlé agronomists;
- raising awareness of the health implications of contaminated grains among agricultural extension officials, food companies, retailers, transporters and wholesalers;
- paying price premiums to farmers for mycotoxin-free produce.
In 2008/09, 10 000 trained farmers produced grains with mycotoxin levels within Nestlé standards (four parts per billion) and in 2010, the number rose to 30 000 farmers. The management and control of mycotoxins is supported by an awareness campaign and greater stakeholder dialogue, delivered through leaflets, newsletters and even pictorial guides for illiterate farmers, which are intended to make food companies, retailers and wholesalers, as well as farmers, more aware of the health implications of mycotoxin contamination.
An estimated 150 million people in the three countries exposed to aflatoxin (a type of mycotoxin) will have healthier diets as a result of the project, and as it is planned to be rolled out to Zimbabwe, Kenya and other countries where mycotoxin contamination is an issue, many more could also benefit.
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