Submitted to: International Conference on Mycotoxins
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: March 29, 1999
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals produced by molds. Because molds grow well on many cereal crops, it is possible for mycotoxins to contaminate human foods and animal feeds. Some mycotoxins in corn are classified as causes of human cancer and are animal carcinogens. Other mycotoxins found in corn are known to cause reproductive problems and other diseases in humans and farm animals. US corn usually contains ver low levels of mycotoxins. However, occasionally US corn grown in certain areas can become contaminated with higher levels of mycotoxins. The production of specific mycotoxins is often dependent on climatic conditions that favor fungal infection, mold growth, and toxin production. In the US mycotoxins in corn pose little health risk to the majority of people. However, individuals that consume large amounts of corn daily are at risk when consuming corn that is contaminated with high concentrations of mycotoxins. In other countries where corn is a major part of the daily diet, even relatively low levels of some mycotoxins may present a health risk. One of the best strategies to protect humans and farm animals from mycotoxins is to prevent their formation in the field and in storage. This paper summarizes the environmental factors that favor fungal infection, mold growth and toxin production. It also reviews the management strategies and other methods that have been developed to prevent mycotoxins from occurring in corn and the methods used to detoxify mycotoxins when they do accumulate in corn to high concentrations.
Technical Abstract: There have been numerous reviews and publications summarizing the approaches in use and being developed to minimize mycotoxin contamination of corn. Many of the strategies used for commodities other than corn are generally applicable for corn. In this overview, "prevention" of mycotoxin production in corn encompasses prevention of toxin biosynthesis and metabolism in the field (pre-harvest) or in storage (post-harvest). Mycotoxin "detoxification", refers only to post-harvest treatments designed to remove, destroy, or reduce the toxic effects of mycotoxins. The potential ability of the plant to detoxify mycotoxins in situ is treated as a prevention strategy.