Potential application of lactic acid starters in the reduction of aflatoxin contamination in fermented sorghum-millet beverages

Stellah Byakika*, Ivan Muzira Mukisa, Alex Paul Wacoo, Remco Kort, Yusuf Byenkya Byaruhanga, Charles Muyanja

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Aflatoxin contamination in traditionally fermented cereal-based beverages is a serious food safety challenge considering that commercialization of these products is rising. The challenge is aggravated by the fact that aflatoxin elimination from the food chain is almost impossible. This paper focuses on Obushera, a popular traditional spontaneously fermented sorghum – millet beverage from Uganda. Method: Mold and total aflatoxin levels in cereal flours and Obushera from different markets in Kampala were determined. Ability of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) starters from Obushera; Lb. plantarum MNC 21, W. confusa MNC 20 and L. lactis MNC 24 to bind aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) was evaluated against Lb. rhamnosus yoba 2012 as the reference strain. Results: Mold counts in sorghum, millet and Obushera ranged between 0.0–2.4 log cfu/g, 2.0–6.5 log cfu/g and 2.0–5.5 log cfu/g, respectively. None of the flours complied with food safety standards for molds (maximum = 4 log cfu/g) while 88.0% of Obushera did (standard = maximum 1.3 log cfu/g). Total aflatoxin levels in sorghum, millet and Obushera were 22.3 ± 21.2 ppb, 9.9 ± 10.0 ppb and 10.4 ± 6.1 ppb, respectively. LAB bound 19.3–69.4% of AFB1 in a 1000 ppb solution with binding efficiency in the order of Lb. rhamnosus yoba 2012 = Lb. plantarum MNC 21 > W. confusa MNC 20 = L. lactis MNC 24. The LAB-AFB1complex remained stable under a series of washes with physiological saline. Conclusion: This study indicates that LAB with aflatoxin binding properties can be exploited for controlled cereal fermentations to improve food safety.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Food Contamination
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


  • Aflatoxin
  • Fermentation
  • Food safety
  • Lactic acid bacteria
  • Millet
  • Sorghum


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