FOOD CONTAMINATION – Part Three

Mycotoxins

 Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by certain moulds (fungi) and can be found in food. The moulds grow on a variety of different crops and foodstuffs including cereals, nuts, spices, dried fruits, apples and coffee beans, often under warm and humid conditions. Mycotoxins can cause a variety of adverse health effects and pose a serious health threat to both humans and livestock. The adverse health effects of mycotoxins range from acute poisoning to long-term effects such as immune deficiency and cancer.

Mycotoxins are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of moulds (fungi). Moulds that can produce mycotoxins grow on numerous foodstuffs such as cereals, dried fruits, nuts and spices. Mould growth can occur either before harvest or after harvest, during storage, on/in the food itself often under warm, damp and humid conditions. Most mycotoxins are chemically stable and survive food processing.

Several hundred different mycotoxins have been identified, but the most commonly observed mycotoxins that present a concern to human health and livestock include aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, patulin, fumonisins, zearalenone and nivalenol/deoxynivalenol. Mycotoxins appear in the food chain as a result of mould infection of crops both before and after harvest. Exposure to mycotoxins can happen either directly by eating infected food or indirectly from animals that are fed contaminated feed, in particular from milk.