Reducing the Risk of Mycotoxins

February 2017. Reducing the Risk of Mycotoxins Toni Tarver | Food Technology magazine, Volume
71, No.2

In developed countries, food safety policies tend to focus on foodborne pathogens of bacterial or viral origin and the [imagined] risk to humans caused by processed food or genetically engineered crops.

However, another threat to food safety affects 25% of the world’s food crops, and food processing and genetic engineering may be effective ways to control it: mycotoxins. Felicia Wu, a professor in the department of food science and human nutrition at Michigan State University, describes the prevalence of mycotoxins, the public health risks they pose, and strategies to reduce their presence.

“Aflatoxins are not only an agricultural issue but also a major global public health issue. Other health effects have been associated with other mycotoxins in crops, but the evidence is not as clear-cut as the case for aflatoxin. Aflatoxin causes the worst human health effects around the world. We have incontrovertible evidence that aflatoxin causes liver cancer. (…) In Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, and Southeast Asia, there is a high incidence of chronic hepatitis B infection and the climate is favorable for the growth of Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. The combination of these factors renders the corn and peanuts grown in these regions at high risk for aflatoxin contamination. Felicia Wu, professor in the department of food science and human nutrition at Michigan State University

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