TANZANIA Bureau of Standards (TBS) has equipped cassava farmers in Kilindi District, Tanga Region with skills on how to process and remove toxins on cassava for the safety of consumers.
Officials from TBS offered training to farmers and consumers of cassava who produce cassava in large quantities in Kilindi District on the safety and quality of cassava products.
The TBS Quality Control Officer, Ashura Kilewela, said among other things cassava farmers and consumers were sensitised on the presence of natural toxins in cassava and how they can make it safe for consumers.
“Although cassava is an important food crop, it is affected by the natural toxins that emanate from chemicals produced by the plant itself called cyanide,” said Ms Ashura.
According to Ms Ashura, the number of cyanide chemicals in cassava varies depending on the type of cassava concerned and its taste.
“For example, cassava with a small amount of cyanide chemical has a sweet taste, while that with more cyanide chemical has a bitter taste,” noted the Control Officer.
Some of the factors contributing to the increase in the number of natural toxins in cassava are the type of cassava cultivated, the weather condition of the area where the level of cyanide in cassava increases more during the dry season and also the type of soil in which cassava is cultivated.
“The amount of cyanide chemical in cassava varies between one area and another depending on the type of soil of the agricultural area even if the seed used is of the same type,” explained Ms Ashura.
Commenting on the effects of cyanide poisoning, the TBS Chief Food Safety Officer, Dr Candida Shirima, said the consumer could get health complications from natural cyanide poisoning after eating cassava-based foods with high cyanide chemicals.
Dr Shirima went on to advise the locals on how to reduce the toxins found in the crop which is by soaking the cassava in water and as a result, the toxin dissolves in the water.
It is recommended that it should be soaked for three to five days. She advised farmers to change the soaking water of the cassava every two days to remove the cyanide chemical more efficiently.
She urged farmers and consumers to make sure they dry it after soaking. “Cassava should be washed and dried on top of the sheds with the best solar dryer until it dries well and is ready for other steps such as grinding,” said Dr Shirima.
She said the knowledge was provided to farmers and consumers of Kilindi District Council in high-yielding and affected areas. Areas that produce the crop in large quantities and the most affected are Songe district headquarters, Kwamwande, Kwadiboma, Nkama, Village Officers and Officers in shops.
Other places are Mvungwe, Kigunga, Gombero, Kibirashi, Mafulira, kikunde, chamt