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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Maricopa, Arizona » U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center » Pest Management and Biocontrol Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #338649

Research Project: Improved Environmental and Crop Safety by Modification of the Aspergillus flavus Population Structure

Location: Pest Management and Biocontrol Research

Title: Aflatoxin contamination of dried red chilies: Contrasts between the United States and Nigeria, two markets differing in regulation enforcement

item SINGH, PUMMI - University Of Arizona
item Cotty, Peter

Submitted to: Food Control
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/12/2017
Publication Date: 5/16/2017
Citation: Singh, P., Cotty, P.J. 2017. Aflatoxin contamination of dried red chilies: Contrasts between the United States and Nigeria, two markets differing in regulation enforcement. Food Control. 80:374-379.

Interpretive Summary: Dried red chili (Capsicum spp.), one of the most consumed spices worldwide, frequently becomes contaminated with aflatoxins, chemicals that cause cancer and liver disease. Contamination causes the chilies to lose economic value and results in dangerous exposure to the consumer. It is not clear the extent to which regulations in the U.S. and Africa succeed in protecting consumers from aflatoxin exposure through chili consumption. The current study compared aflatoxin contamination in chilies from markets in the U.S. to contamination of chilies from markets in Nigeria. Overall, chilies from US markets had less aflatoxins than chilies from Nigeria. However, significant contamination was detected in both nations. Processing of chilies for the U.S. market reduced or eliminated aflatoxin-producing fungi resulting in a spice that is safer for post purchase storage. The results indicate that chili consumption is associated with exposure to unacceptable levels of aflatoxins in both the highly regulated U.S. market and Nigerian markets with low enforcement of regulations.

Technical Abstract: Dried red chilies are among the world’s most consumed spices. From farm to fork, chilies go through cropping, harvest, drying, processing and storage. Chilies are susceptible to infection by aflatoxin producing fungi and subsequent contamination by aflatoxins at every stage. Aflatoxins are highly regulated, hepatotoxic carcinogens produced by fungi in Aspergillus section Flavi. The current study examined prevalence of aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) in chilies from markets across the United States (U.S.) and Nigeria, and compared exposure to aflatoxins through consumption of chilies. Aflatoxin B1 was detected in 64% chilies from U.S. markets (n = 169), and 93% of Nigerian chilies (n = 55) with a commercial lateral flow assay (Limit of Detection = 2 µg/kg). Two percent of U.S. samples exceeded the aflatoxin regulatory limit of 20 µg/kg, while the highest concentration detected was 94.9 µg/kg. Aspergillus spp. could be recovered only from 40% of samples from the U.S., and aflatoxin levels did not correlate with quantities of Aspergillus section Flavi (Colony Forming Units g-1), suggesting fungi associated with chilies in U.S. markets were killed during processing. Both average AFB1 concentrations and fungal quantities were significantly higher (p < 0.01) in Nigerian chilies. The most contaminated sample contained 156 µg/kg AFB1. Aflatoxin concentrations in Nigerian chilies increased as an exponential function of the quantities of Aspergillus section Flavi (r 2 = 0.76). Results indicate that high rates of chili consumption may be associated with unacceptable aflatoxin exposure.