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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second Aflatoxins are a group of toxins produced by certain species of fungi - in particular, Aspergillus flavus and parasiticus. The favourite weather conditions for aflatoxin development are hot and humid environment with optimal conditions being 33 degrees C or more. The crops most susceptible to aflatoxins are maize and ground nuts, such as peanuts. However, barley, cottonseed, sorghum, wheat, silage, tree nuts, milk, apples, oats, beans, and potatoes are also known to be susceptible to contamination. Types of aflatoxin include B1, B2, G1, G2. Aflatoxin M1 is a metabolite of aflatoxin B1 and is found in milk. However, the most toxic and common is aflatoxin B1.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds Aflatoxin B1 is a potent liver carcinogen, having synergistic effect with hepatitis B infection and is known to cause cancer in both humans and animals. From now on, we will use the term “aflatoxin” to refer to this toxin. Aflatoxin is liver carcinogen. However, the risks to human health also include growth impairment, immunosuppression.

Skip to 1 minute and 23 seconds Acute exposure to aflatoxins or aflatoxicosis, aflatoxin poisoning can cause death to humans and animals. The potential aflatoxin health hazard were first identified when the toxin was found to be responsible for the deaths of large number of poultry in the UK in the 1960s. The deaths were linked to imported feed, which was found to be contaminated with aflatoxin. However, as aflatoxin are so widespread and naturally occurring, the US Food and Drug Administration - the FDA - consider aflatoxins an unavoidable contaminant. Therefore, despite the toxic effect, they are accepted at low levels in food for human and animal consumptions. However, there are concerns over the risk of contamination.

Skip to 2 minutes and 15 seconds As peanuts are widely consumed and also susceptible to aflatoxin contamination, they are a food source that the FDA strictly monitors for contamination. Currently, most nations have a maximum tolerable limit, ranging from 4 to 20 nanogram per gramme for total aflatoxins in maize and the peanuts.

What are aflatoxins?

Aflatoxins are the first well studied mycotoxin and are considered the most well researched.

They are known to contaminate food and feed supplies, and pose health risks to both humans and animals due to their toxic effects.

The video will outline aflatoxins in more detail.

Historical overview of aflatoxins

A timeline that provides a summary of the history of aflatoxin discovery and research is included in PDF format in the downloads section.

If have any thoughts or comments about the video or the historical aflatoxin timeline please share in the discussion area below.

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This video is from the free online course:

Tackling Global Food Safety

Queen's University Belfast