“There is substantial evidence indicating that mycotoxins are a global problem causing devastating effects on human and animal health, food nutrition and security and the economy, particularly throughout sub-Saharan Africa.”
This was the focus of Professor Patrick Njobeh, Professor in Biotechnology and Food Technology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) who delivered a compelling inaugural address at Ubuntu Chambers, Madibeng Building, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus on September 18, 2023.
Prof Njobeh presented his address to a distinguished audience including Dr Nolitha Vukuza, Senior Executive Director: University Relations, Student Affairs and UJ Sport, as well as the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Professor Annah Moteetee.
Exploring mycotoxins and food safety
Prof. Njobeh’s lecture, titled “Mycotoxins and Food Safety – What We Know and the Silver Lining,” delved into his extensive research on mycotoxins. He discussed their historical context, challenges, prevalence in food, method development, prevention, control strategies, and community engagement efforts.
The lecture highlighted the prevalence of toxic food and feed contaminants in sub-Saharan Africa, attributing this to various factors, including ecological conditions conducive to fungal and mycotoxin contamination, inadequate food quality control, subpar storage conditions, food scarcity, and limited awareness. Socio-political factors were also identified as significant contributors.
Addressing future threats: climate change and food safety
Prof. Njobeh emphasised the potential threats posed by global warming and climate change, which may exacerbate fungal and mycotoxin contamination in the future.
“There are predictions that the continued rise in global warming and climate change will seriously compromise food safety in terms of fungal and mycotoxin contamination in future. It therefore follows that there is a need to address the problem via mycotoxin surveillance and mitigation involving all actors, he added”.
In his lecture, some notable surveillance studies, predictive models employed, and multidisciplinary approaches on mycotoxin mitigation strategies at the University of Johannesburg were discussed.
A brief response by Professor Oluwafemi Adebo, Deputy HOD Research in the Department of Biotechnology and Food Technology, followed after the address by Professor Njobeh.
Prof Njobeh’s research focus is in food safety and security that cuts across various scientific disciplines that include Agriculture, Food Science, Feed Science and Nutrition, Microbiology, and Nanotechnology.
He has been actively involved in a number of community engagement projects in agriculture in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces in collaboration with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) of South Africa. Some of these projects have been the cultivation of West African indigenous crops to improve nutrition and health in rural communities.
A distinguished academic career
Prof Njobeh has had a remarkable academic journey, starting as a Senior Lecturer in 2012 with a focus on postgraduate studies and research. His dedication was recognised with a successful evaluation in Strengthening Postgraduate Supervision in 2015. He advanced to Associate Professor in Food Safety in 2017 and attained the rank of Full Professor in May 2020.
During his 11-year tenure at UJ, he excelled in coordinating admissions, committee involvement, and securing substantial research grants totalling close to R47 million. Prof Njobeh holds scientific awards, is a C2 researcher as rated by the NRF, and plays editorial and reviewer roles in academic publishing.
He’s actively engaged in mentoring, having supervised numerous Postdoctoral Fellows, MSc, and PhD students, with ongoing supervision of more. His extensive publication record exceeds 220 works, leading to high rankings in Food Science research in South Africa (6th) and Africa (18th) according to Scival.