Aflatoxin meaning, in food & treatment

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Aflatoxin Meaning :

Aflatoxin is a type of mycotoxin. Mycotoxins (toxic substances produced by fungi in fruits, vegetables, food grains, seeds, legumes, etc.) induce mycotoxicoses, i.e. diseases of animals and humans when they consume feeds and foods invaded by some fungi producing mycotoxins.

Aflatoxin is produced by which fungi :

Aflatoxin is produced by Aspergillus flavus, but it is now known to be produced by other species of Aspergillus.

The discovery of aflatoxin in 1961 has created a great sensation in the scientific world, and as such inspired a great contribution of research in chemistry, biochemistry, mycology, nutrition, food technology, etc.

Aflatoxin found in what foods:

Aflatoxin is produced at high concentrations in infected peanuts, cotton seeds, brazil nuts, groundnuts, copra, and also other seeds or nuts grown in warm and humid regions.

Such highly concentrated aflatoxin, when ingested with feed causes mostly chronic or occasionally acute mycotoxicoses.

However, in infected cereal seeds and most legumes aflatoxin may be produced at low and probably non-toxic concentration. Aflatoxin produced by infected cereal-seeds and nuts degrades the carbohydrates, proteins, and other cellular constituents.

Researches have shown that there is definite correlation between aflatoxin consumption and the nutritional status, and incidence of hepatomia and other disease syndromes in people from developing countries.

It has also revealed that high incidence of human liver cancer and allied diseases in certain regions of South-East Asia where people consume cereals, peanuts, and other foodstuffs often infected with Aspergillus species.

Here aflatoxin acts as a mutagenic agent of hepatocellular chromosomes. Aflatoxin also exerts acute fatal effects on infants and small children.

Aflatoxin may exist in a variety of derivatives with varying effects. Some of these toxins, when consumed with the feed by dairy cattle, are excreted in the milk in toxic form.

It is reported that aflatoxin BI and its metabolite aflatoxin MI occur in mothers’ breast milk who have eaten aflatoxin containing foods. Therefore it is very difficult to conclude that a particular substance is the only cancer-inducing agent.

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Aflatoxin treatment:

In smaller doses, aflatoxins are tolerated by the human body and do not produce any apparent ill effects. but they definitely cause damages to the organs if taken persistently in the body, even in small doses, resulting in slow poisoning.

The most common symptom observed as a result of food poisoning by aflatoxin is paralysis. Although such cases are reported from time to time, the exact nature and the mode of action and the active principles in poisoning have not yet been thoroughly investigated.

How to avoid :

If growth of toxigenic fungus and aflatoxin production in food and feed crops could be prevented by improved practices in culture, harvesting, drying, storage, and handling, there would be no need for detoxification.

Fungal growth and aflatoxin production are rapid on products of high moisture content in a warm and humid climate in presence of air.

Improved methods of harvesting, drying, and storage conditions for preventing fungal growth on commodities have been recommended by the agriculture departments of most of the countries.

Aflatoxin producing different strains of Aspergillus belonging to different species, and also some species of Penicillium should be isolated from non-aflatoxin species.

As the aflatoxin is a metabolic product of a living organism (fungus) and which exists in the natural ecological system, so it is impossible to eradicate aflatoxin-producing fungi completely from the system.

Frequently Asked Questions :

Q. What foods contain aflatoxins?

Aflatoxin is produced in infected peanuts, cotton seeds, brazil nuts, groundnuts, copra, and also other seeds or nuts grown in warm and humid regions.

Q. Is aflatoxin harmful to humans?

In smaller doses, aflatoxins are tolerated by the human body and do not produce any apparent ill effects. but they definitely cause damages to the organs if taken persistently in the body, even in small doses, resulting in slow poisoning.

Q. How do you prevent aflatoxin?

If the growth of toxigenic fungus and aflatoxin production in food and feed crops could be prevented by improved practices in culture, harvesting, drying, storage, and handling, there would be no need for detoxification.


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