Reducing the risk of mycotoxins in foods
What can we do to eliminate mycotoxins in foods? Chris Cattini, Production Manager at IFIS, explores several methods that can help food producers reduce the risk of hazardous bacteria in their products.
Mycotoxins have been around for a very long time. Produced by fungi – particularly Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium and Alternaria – mycotoxins first became a problem when humans started cultivating and storing crops for food use, around 10,000 years ago.
As well as being a common contaminant of cereal grains, mycotoxins can be found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including nuts, apple juice, coffee, fruits, milk from animals given contaminated feeds, and even pet foods.
Why are mycotoxins a problem?
Mycotoxins are a danger to health for their potential to cause serious disease. For example, the aflatoxins produced by Aspergillus species can cause aflatoxicosis, a life-threatening form of acute poisoning with potential to cause liver damage. Evidence also exists that suggests that aflatoxins are genotoxic and can exert more long-term health effects, such as liver cancer. Ochratoxins – produced by both Penicillium and Aspergillus species – on the other hand, lead to kidney damage and have been implicated as causal agents of kidney cancer in animals, together with adverse effects on foetal development and the immune system. In addition, recent research has tentatively suggested that ochratoxin A may be linked to autism in children.1 The other major fungal genus responsible for mycotoxin production, Fusarium, produces fumonisins, common contaminants of maize, which have been related to oesophageal cancer.