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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Groves, Frank
item Zhang, Lin
item Chang, Yun-sheng
item Ross, P. Frank
item Casper, Howard
item Norred, William
item You, Wei-cheng
item Fraumeni, Jr, Joseph

Submitted to: Journal of Association of Official Analytical Chemists International
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/11/1998
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: In northeast China there is a region where the rate of death from stomach cancer is unusually high. Associated with this is the unique practice of the people in the region to prepare and consume "sour" pancakes, made from the fermented corn meal. Corn can be contaminated with mycotoxins, which are toxic substances produced by molds, and some of these toxins can cause cancer in laboratory animals. Therefore we conducted a survey of raw corn, corn meal, unfermented and fermented corn meal batter, and cooked sour pancakes collected from households in the high cancer region. Fumonisins, one type of mycotoxin found on corn, were found in some of the corn specimens, and in the products made from the corn. Other mycotoxins, including deoxynivalenol and zearalenone were also detected in some (15%) of the samples. The levels found were quite low, and did not appear to increase during the fermentation process. From this one study, the role of mycotoxins in the high rate of stomach cancer could not be established. Other studies, analyzing corn and corn products from other years, will be needed to determine whether mycotoxins are involved or not.

Technical Abstract: Consumption of fermented ("sour"), but not unfermented ("sweet") corn pancakes has been linked with the elevated stomach cancer mortality rates in the rural Linqu County in Shandong Province in northeast China. Previous surveys of fungal contamination of raw corn in China have revealed fumonisins, which are mycotoxins produced by Fusarium moniliforme. Specimens of raw corn, cornmeal, unfermented and fermented pancake batter, and cooked sour pancakes were obtained from each of sixteen households in Linqu County and analyzed by USDA. No aflatoxins were detected in any of the specimens. However, fumonisins B1, B2, and B3 were detected in 19%, 25%, and 6% of the raw corn specimens, respectively, as well as in the various corn products. No type A trichothecanes were detected; however, the type B trichothecanes deoxynivalenol and 15-acetyldeoxynivelnol were detected ind 58% and 17% of the raw corn specimens, and zearalenone was found in 15% of the cornmeal specimens. (A similar proportion of raw corn specimens from a USDA survey in the midwestern states in 1996 were contaminated by fumonisin B1 and deoxynivalenol.) The various corn products were also contaminated by B1, B2, and B3, and deoxynivalenol, with concentrations ranging up to 8.8, 2.8, 0.9, and 2.7 parts per million, respectively. None of the mycotoxins appeared to increase in concentration during fermentation. However, Fusarium moniliforme has been shown to produce nitrosamines in vitro. Therefore, additional corn specimens from Linqu will be tested for nitrosamine contamination.

Last Modified: 05/23/2017
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