Cyanide in Cassava Varieties and People’s Perception on Cyanide Poisoning in Selected Regions of Tanzania

Cornelius B. Mushumbusi, Robert A. Max, Gaymary G. Bakari, James R. Mushi, Sakurani T. Balthazary


Cassava, an important food crop in the tropical regions of the world, is known to carry varying levels of cyanogenic glucosides that are potential poison to humans. In Tanzania, cases of cyanide poisoning have been reported in many cassava producing areas. This study was launched to quantify cyanide in fresh tubers of so called “sweet” cassava varieties and to gauge peoples’ perception on cyanide poisoning in Kagera and Morogoro regions. The study employed a questionnaire survey and a cross-sectional research design to identify different cassava varieties and their cyanide content using alkaline titration method. Findings showed that cyanide content in all of the analyzed tubers were above the internationally accepted levels in human consumables. Some sweet varieties were found to be wrongly classified as sweet because their cyanide content was above acceptable limits. For the same variety tubers sampled from a lowland area had significantly higher (P < 0.01) cyanide content than those from a highland point. It was also found that the upper (slippery) parenchymal tissue had more cyanide content (P < 0.05) than the inner tissue. Nearly 80% of the studied population was unaware of cyanide poisoning, its health effects and how to reduce cyanide content prior to consumption. It is concluded that consumption of raw cassava tubers can lead to undesirable health effects despite of some of them being categorized as sweet. The public should be sensitized on the issues of cyanide in cassava and should avoid consuming raw cassava tubers as preventive measures against cyanide poisoning.

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Copyright (c) 2020 Cornelius B. Mushumbusi, Robert A. Max, Gaymary G. Bakari, James R. Mushi, Sakurani T. Balthazary

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Journal of Agricultural Studies   ISSN 2166-0379


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