What is Aflatoxin?
The type of mycotoxin that produces Aspergillus molds is called Aflatoxin. Besides trichothecenes, this is the most known and widely spread micro-toxin in our food. These substances, however, are highly controlled by global food and health organizations, due to their high levels of toxicity and destructive potential.
We recognize three main types of aflatoxin mycotoxins:
Aflatoxins B: includes aflatoxins B1 and B2. While B1 is the most common, also the most toxic and cancerous.
Aflatoxins G: This group holds Aflatoxin G1 and G2
Aflatoxins M: This group includes Aflatoxins M1 and M2. Aflatoxins of this group are metabolic products in urine and milk of animals that have been fed with it.
Exposure and symptoms
The effect that Aflatoxin mycotoxins will cause in a person depends on factors such as age, sex, level of exposure, duration of exposure, health, immune system, nutrition, and environmental factors.
The human organism is exposed to mycotoxin in two frequent basic ways. The first is when someone takes a large amount of Aflatoxin in a concise time. In this case, toxins can hurt the person in terms of liver damage, liver cancer, mental illness, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, edema of the lungs, confusion, eating disorders, metabolic disorders, coma, in the end, death. For pets, unfortunately, Aflatoxin proved to be hazardous to life.
Another way people are contaminated with Aflatoxin is the consumption of small quantities over a more extended period. This can happen if a person’s diet has a small amount of mycotoxin, for example. Such use will lead to slower growth and development, specific mutations in the DNA, which will further cause the onset of cancer.
Toxicity of Aflatoxin and presence in food
Mycotoxins are very poisonous to humans and even more dangerous to animals. They are known to cause cancer and can cause death. A dose that can lead to death in 50% of animals is between 0.5 and 10 mg/kg.
The term for aflatoxin poisoning is aflatoxicosis. It occurs when we eat contaminated food.
Aflatoxicosis is not contagious, but medicines and antibiotics can’t help much. It primarily damages the liver. Aflatoxin also defeats the immune system. Consumption of vegetables such as carrots and celery perhaps can reduce the poisoning effects.
Aflatoxin produces mold Aspergillus. They develop mainly on crops, cereals, and nuts. Aspergillus often grows on the grain before it is harvested, but it can also be found on the grain if it is stored moist.
Also, the mold can be found in the soil, hay and decaying vegetation. The ideal conditions for reproduction are high temperature and high humidity (7% or more).
Aflatoxin is a problem around the planet. However, it is more common in underdeveloped countries. The developed nations regulate high levels of mycotoxins in food. For example, the U.S. limited the level below 20 parts per billion and mycotoxin M must be below 0.5 parts per billion milk.
Crops that are mostly at risk of mycotoxin contamination are corn, cotton seeds, peanuts, and beans, rice, nuts, and wheat. It grows more rarely on other cereals and nuts.
If we give food to the animals that are contaminated with aflatoxins, it can end up in milk, eggs, or meat. It is mostly found in cow milk, as metabolites produced by animals that have eaten Aflatoxin.
Removal of aflatoxins from food
Aflatoxin can be removed from food by the chemical process. For example, nuts, corn, cereals, and milk. Most grains, however, contain minimal quantities of mycotoxin below the perilous limit. Regardless of the control measures and the procedure that foods pass through during production, the presence of the concern about this phenomenon of the world’s population is more than evident.