Aflatoxins: A silent threat in developing countries
Several mycotoxins are known to contaminate crop produce and processed forms but aflatoxins are the most common. They are mainly produced by fungi belonging to the genera Aspergillus and Penicillium. Cereals and their products which constitute the staples in most developing countries are particularly vulnerable to attack by aflatoxigenic fungi. Despite the potential health risk posed to animals and humans, many people in developing countries are oblivious of the ability of aflatoxins to cause cancer and other debilitating diseases. This review therefore examines the various types of aflatoxigenic fungi and toxins, their occurrence in foodstuffs, their harmful effects, economic losses caused, regulation including the tolerable limits set by various national and international agencies and how their effects can be minimized or eliminated. Since developing countries are less resourced, there is the need for their developed counterparts and international agencies to offer them financial and technical support, to enable them to embark on education, research and other activities and ultimately minimize contamination in their products.
Keywords: Aflatoxicosis, fungi, regulation, standards, toxins