Avoid Aflatoxins In 3 Foods

Avoid Aflatoxins in Food

How to avoid Aflatoxins in 3 foods, such as grains, wheat, and nuts?

Yes, it has been more than 3 years since I have been labeled with cancer. I am still alive and stamped with a big red stamp, CANCER  WATCH OUT, but I do not care. The stamp is mine as my life is. Having a scientific mind made me start reading literature about cancer and food. Many information I read is deceptive. One of them is eating nuts. The later is linked to aflatoxins, a cancerogenic mold found in nuts, grains. and wheat. Therefore, my post today is about aflatoxins and how they may damage the liver, kidneys, and initiate cancer.

Aflatoxins and Liver Cancer /Avoid Aflatoxins In 3 Foods

Aflatoxins are types of molds and are ubiquitous in the environment. In addition to contaminating food crops, they may pose a serious health risk to livestock and humans.

Long term exposure to aflatoxins may pose serious health consequences. Aflatoxins are potent molds and cause cancer to the liver and harm the kidneys. The effect of aflatoxins increases in the presence of Hepatitis B infection. This type of mold can cause mutation of the DNA  and potential birth defects. It can also suppress the immune system leading to decreasing resistance to serious infection, such as HIV and tuberculosis.

How Crops Become Infected?

Crops may become infected before or after harvest. Before harvesting, contamination can occur to peanuts and tree nuts. After harvesting contamination can occur to coffee, rice, and spices – The reason is always improper storage condition (humid and improper temperature storage). 

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Before Harvest

Avoid-Aflatoxins- In- 3 Foods-storage

After Harvest

Human Exposure to Aflatoxins / Avoid Aflatoxins In 3 Foods

Humans are exposed to aflatoxins through the consummation of affected nuts and grains. The fungi species (molds) related to health hazards for humans are Aspergillus Flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Both species produce aflatoxins that present a serious threat to human health, and they are found in grains and nuts.

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Nuts and Molds

How crops, livestock, and humans get exposed to these fungi?

Molds can invade crops when there are good conditions for them to thrive, such as humidity and high temperatures. Those conditions are specific to the tropic and subtropic regions.  Different types of aflatoxins exist, and some are extensively dangerous for humans and livestock.  Livestock gets affected when crops have aflatoxins, and they can transmit this dangerous mold to humans through inappropriate harvest, storage, and uncontrolled diary production.

Poisoning with Aflatoxins

Large exposure to this mold may lead to acute poisoning, even death. The mechanism of action occurs by damaging the liver. The symptoms for liver failure or damage are jaundice, nausea, lethargy, and death. Children are more susceptible to aflatoxins poisoning than adults.

Adverse Effects of Aflatoxins in Livestock

Aflatoxins cause liver damage in animals and humans. It impairs animals’ productivity and efficiency. In Chickens, there is a decrease in eggs’ production, bad quality eggs’ shells, and increased susceptibility to various diseases.  In cattle, exposure to aflatoxins leads to reduced weight, liver, and kidney damage.

However, detecting aflatoxins whether in humans or animals is difficult, because the clinical symptoms vary, and they can be differentiated or shadowed by the presence of infectious diseases that affect the liver or kidneys. The clinical exams used in humans after 24 hours of exposure are urine and blood tests.

Sampling

Molds are never equally distributed in a shipment. Protocols for batches’ sampling exist, and there is a setting for a maximum level of aflatoxins. Nevertheless, the uneven distribution of mold makes the results not so accurate.

How the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Authorities Control Aflatoxins

WHO and the national authorities have developed risk assessment procedures to define what is the safe exposure level to aflatoxins. The responsible organizations have developed recommended levels not to be exceeded to prevent poisoning and the cancerogenic effect of this potent mold.

Advice to the Consumer

When foods are contaminated with molds, molds are not only on the surface but they penetrate deep into foods. Consumers have to be aware of how to protect themselves and limit their exposure to this potent carcinogen.                                                                                                                                                         

  • Inspect carefully the food
  • Discard discolored products
  • Buy your products from reliable markets
  • Buy fresh nuts and grains
  • Roast the nuts. During this process, molds may be seen. Discard the nuts if molds appear during the heating process. Heat does not kill molds.
  • Store grains and nuts properly.