Cereals, particularly maize, millet and sorghum, are key staple food crops in Southern Africa, while peanut is considered an important cash crop and a source of proteins. These crops, however, are all susceptible to infection by mycotoxigenic fungi in the field and/or during storage. The major mycotoxigenic fungi found in Southern Africa include Aspergillus spp., Fusarium spp. and Penicillium spp., which produce toxic secondary metabolites (mycotoxins) such as aflatoxins, fumonisins, trichothecenes, zearalenone and ochratoxins.

Mycotoxigenic fungi can cause significant pre- and postharvest losses, threaten consumers’ health and hinder regional trade. Most producers and processors in the region are not aware of the prevalence and risks associated with mycotoxins. The nonexistence of legislations and enforcement of acceptable mycotoxin limits contribute to increased mycotoxin exposure risks, particularly in areas where there is a high dependence on cereal-based diets. With an increasing population and higher demand for food, efforts to reduce contamination of cereals and peanuts with mycotoxigenic fungi is critical for greater food safety and security in the region. Since no single intervention can stop crop infection and grain spoilage by microorganisms, a holistic approach that includes awareness creation, good agronomic practices, chemical and biocontrol and the enforcement of effective policies will increase safe food production in Southern Africa. This chapter will discuss the occurrence, harmful effects of mycotoxins and interventions that can be used in Southern Africa to minimize pre- and postharvest contamination of cereals and peanuts with mycotoxins.