Impact of mycotoxins on human health in developing countries

PROMEC Unit, Medical Research Council, Tygerberg 7505, South Africa.
Food Additives and Contaminants - Part A Chemistry, Analysis, Control, Exposure and Risk Assessment (Impact Factor: 2.34). 03/2008; 25(2):146-51. DOI: 10.1080/02652030701567442
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Adverse human health effects from the consumption of mycotoxins have occurred for many centuries. Although mycotoxin contamination of agricultural products still occurs in the developed world, the application of modern agricultural practices and the presence of a legislatively regulated food processing and marketing system have greatly reduced mycotoxin exposure in these populations. At the mycotoxin contamination levels generally found in food products traded in these market economies, adverse human health effects have largely been overcome. However, in the developing world, where climatic and crop storage conditions are frequently conducive to fungal growth and mycotoxin production, much of the population relies on subsistence farming or on unregulated local markets. The extent to which mycotoxins affect human health is difficult to investigate in countries whose health systems lack capacity and in which resources are limited. Aflatoxin B(1), the toxin on which major resources have been expended, has long been linked to liver cancer, yet its other effects, such as immune suppression and growth faltering previously observed in veterinary studies, are only now being investigated and characterized in human populations. The extent to which factors such as immune suppression contribute to the overall burden of infectious disease is difficult to quantify, but is undoubtedly significant. Thus, food safety remains an important opportunity for addressing current health problems in developing countries.

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