Aflatoxins are various poisonous carcinogens and mutagens that are produced by certain molds, particularly Aspergillus species. The fungi grow in soil, decaying vegetation and various staple foodstuffs and commodities such as hay, sweetcorn, wheat, millet, sorghum, cassava, rice, chili peppers, cottonseed, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and various spices. In short, the relevant fungi grow on almost any crop or food. When such contaminated food is processed or consumed, the aflatoxins enter the general food supply. They have been found in both pet and human foods, as well as in feedstocks for agricultural animals. Animals fed contaminated food can pass aflatoxin transformation products into eggs, milk products, and meat. For example, contaminated poultry feed is the suspected source of aflatoxin-contaminated chicken meat and eggs in Pakistan.

Children are particularly affected by aflatoxin exposure, which is associated with stunted growth, delayed development, liver damage, and liver cancer. An association between childhood stunting and aflatoxin exposure has been reported in some studies but could not be detected in all. Furthermore, a causal relationship between childhood stunting and aflatoxin exposure has yet to be conclusively shown by epidemiological studies, though such investigations are under way. Adults have a higher tolerance to exposure, but are also at risk. No animal species is immune. Aflatoxins are among the most carcinogenic substances known. After entering the body, aflatoxins may be metabolized by the liver to a reactive epoxide intermediate or hydroxylated to become the less harmful aflatoxin M1.

Aflatoxin poisoning most commonly results from ingestion, but the most toxic aflatoxin compound, B1, can permeate through the skin.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) action levels for aflatoxin present in food or feed is 20 to 300 ppb. The FDA has had occasion to declare both human and pet food recalls as a precautionary measure to prevent exposure.

The term "aflatoxin" is derived from the name of the species Aspergillus flavus, in which some of the compounds first were discovered. The word was coined around 1960 after its discovery as the source of "Turkey X disease". Aflatoxins form one of the major groupings of mycotoxins, and apart from Aspergillus flavus various members of the group of compounds occur in species such as: Aspergillus parasiticus, Aspergillus pseudocaelatus, Aspergillus pseudonomius", and Aspergillus nomius".

Broader Problems:
Narrower Problems:
Mycotoxicosis in poultry
Societal Problems Poison
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 15: Life on Land
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST