Aflatoxins are poisonous carcinogens that are produced by certain moulds which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains.
Mould growth can occur either before harvest or after harvest, during storage, on/in the food itself often under warm, damp and humid conditions.
The contaminated food crops pose a serious health threat to humans and livestock. Animals fed contaminated food can pass aflatoxin transformation products into eggs, milk products, and meat.
How badly a person is affected by aflatoxin depends on things like the person’s age, gender, level of exposure, duration of exposure, health, strength of their immune system, diet and environmental factors.
What foods contain aflatoxins?
Effects of aflatoxins
- Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
- Disruption of food digestion, absorption or metabolism
- Pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs)
- Cerebral edema (fluid buildup in the brain)
- Blood abnormalities, such as an increased risk of bleeding out
- Severe damage to the liver
- Liver cancer
How to avoid aflatoxins
- Inspect grains which are regularly contaminated with aflatoxins for evidence of mould, and discard any that look mouldy, discoloured, or shriveled
- Avoid damage of grains before and during drying, and in storage, as damaged grain is more prone to invasion of moulds and therefore aflatoxin contamination
- You should buy grains and nuts that are as fresh as possible
- Make sure that foods are stored properly – kept free of insect infestation, dry, and not in very warm places.
- You should not keep foods for extended periods of time before being used
- Try out different foods – this not only helps to reduce aflatoxins exposure, but also improves nutrition.
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