AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES, ECOLOGICAL AND VARIETAL EFFECTS ON AFLATOXINS AND OTHER MYCOTOXINS IN CORN
Location: Biological Control of Pests Research Unit
Title: Mycotoxin Contamination of Agricultural Products in the Southern United States and Approaches to Reducing it from Pre-harvest to Final Food Products
Submitted to: American Chemical Society Symposium Series
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 10, 2009
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Fungal toxins, called aflatoxins and other mold toxins, are a serious problem in US agricultural commodities. Due to aflatoxins resilience to industrial processes contaminated crops (corn, cotton, peanuts, and tree nuts) cannot be used. The loss of these commodities results in serious economic impacts. The paper gives a quick introduction into the organisms that produce aflatoxins and other mold toxins, the effects these toxins have on human and animal health, the efforts underway to prevent contamination, and how this contamination should be of a concern to the food process industry. This paper will be beneficial as a basic resource to many agencies such as the ARS, FDA, State Chemical Laboratories, growers, producers, industry, and universities.
Mycotoxins represent >300 fungal natural products. Some, notably aflatoxins, trichothecenes, zearalenones, ochratoxins, patulin and fumonisins frequently contaminate cereal grains, causing acute and chronic illnesses in livestock and humans, including teratogenesis, carcinogenesis, endocrine disruption and immunosuppression. Mycotoxin-producing fungi infect plants either from soil reservoirs or as endophytes, which infect seeds and the plants growing from them. Mycotoxins can be produced pre-harvest or post-harvest, but near-ideal crop handling and storage conditions in developed countries allow regulatory agencies to assume zero post-harvest production. Cereal grains range in mycotoxin contamination susceptibility from corn, the most susceptible, to rice, the least susceptible. Mycotoxin contamination can be reduced by effective pre-harvest crop management, rapid post-harvest drying, remediation techniques and certain types of food processing, but these techniques reduce, not eliminate mycotoxins.