Toxic Substance - Aflatoxin
produce toxins (mycotoxins) that can cause sickness and even
death in both animals and humans.
Mycotoxins have been a health problem for a long time. The Chinese
knew and wrote about mycotoxins thousands of years ago.
Mycotoxins are the products of fungal growth. Learning how fungi produce mycotoxins and
which fungi produce mycotoxins could be a first step in helping
prevent exposure to these harmful poisons.
are we exposed to mycotoxins?
People get exposed to mycotoxins from the foods they eat. Fungi
can grow on grain and food at any stage, from pre-harvest to the
time it is eaten, without being detected. The fungi can leave
behind these mycotoxins, which we cannot see, and mycotoxins grow
as the feed is being processed for animals and humans to eat.
It is hard to know if a food contains these mycotoxins because
we can't taste them or, sometimes, even see them. No level of
mycotoxins has been shown to be completely safe.
Of the many
mycotoxins that occur as natural products in foods, aflatoxins
are the only ones that are currently regulated in the United States.
We know that these aflatoxins are "unavoidable contaminants"
in our food. So, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA)
regulates aflatoxins by setting a limit on how much contamination
is allowed. For example, if corn has more than 20 parts
per billion of aflatoxin, then it is considered unsafe and cannot
be sold to be processed into food. Aflatoxins
are found in grains such as corn and are especially a problem
during extended periods of drought.
of the aflatoxins have been reported to occur naturally and one,
aflatoxin B1, is the strongest toxin and can cause cancer. The young of all species of animals are most
affected by aflatoxins and can have a wide range of problems following
ingestion, including digestive distress, anemia, jaundice, reduced
appetite and decreased growth