Bacterial Contamination Other Contaminants Heavy Metals

(IARC). This article briefly describes the occurrence, biological effects, mechanistic studies, and where available, epidemiological associations of dietary exposure to major mycotoxins with human disease outcomes.


J D Groopman and T W Kensler, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Mycotoxins are toxic fungal metabolites of enormous chemical diversity that naturally contaminate the human food supply. These compounds induce an array of toxicologic effects when consumed in sufficient quantities. The three major genera of myco-toxin-producing fungi are Aspergillus, Fusarium, and Penicillium. This field has been comprehensively reviewed by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) and concisely by Etzel. The potential production of mycotoxins is insidious since fungal growth can occur both prior to and after grain harvest. Ecological conditions such as drought or damage to seeds by insects or mechanical harvesting can enhance mycotoxin production during both growth and storage. Mycotoxin production also occurs over a wide range of moisture content, relative humidity, and temperature. The major crops affected throughout the world are corn, peanuts, cotton, wheat, rice, and the processed food derived from these commodities.

Following the discovery of the carcinogenic afla-toxins 40 years ago, the search for mycotoxins has led to the identification of more than 100 toxigenic fungi and more than 300 mycotoxins worldwide. Most of these mycotoxins have not been linked to any toxic syndromes in animals or people, but some, such as aflatoxins, certain trichothecenes, fumoni-sins, and ochratoxins, have been implicated in highly lethal episodic outbreaks of mold poisoning in exposed animals and/or human populations. Mycotoxins with carcinogenic potency in experimental animal models include aflatoxins, sterigma-tocystin, ochratoxin, fumonisin, patulin, and penicillic acid. Of these agents, aflatoxin B1 has been classified as a category I human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer

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