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AFLATOXIN – What you should know?

What is Aflatoxin?

Aflatoxin are naturally occurring mycotoxins that are produced by some strains of fungus most notably Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.

How can foods get contaminated by Aflatoxin?

Fungus producing Aspergillus can grow under the following conditions:

  • Foods kept under condition of high humidity for long periods.
  • Foods stored in places without adequate ventilation.

Which are the foods commonly exposed to Aflatoxin contamination?

  • Legume and legume products – ground nuts, pistachios, peanut butter, almond and others.
  • Cereal and cereal products – corn, rice, wheat, millet, soy bean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and others.
  • Spices – chillies, black pepper, turmeric, coriander and others.

What is the effect of Aflatoxin to our health?

Exposure to high levels of Aflatoxin for long periods can cause liver cancer and food poisoning (Aflatoxicosis). Consumers with hepatitis B or liver disease are at a higher risk.

Who are at risk of being exposed to Aflatoxin?

Consumers who frequently consume large amount of legumes or its products, cereals or its products and spices are at a higher risk of being exposed to Aflatoxin.

What consumers should do?

  • Ministry of Health, Malaysia (MOH) suggests that everybody should live a healthy lifestyle by consuming healthy and balanced diet including fruits and vegetables.
  • Foods should be stored under a dry and airtight condition according to the instructions on the label.
  • You should carefully select legumes or cereals before you purchase it. Avoid consuming foods contaminated with mould or fungus or having a change in physical appearance.

What are the measures taken by the government to handle this issue?

  • MOH continuously conducts monitoring of foods which are at risk of Aflatoxin contamination and to ensure that it is below permitted level and safe for consumption.
  • MOH is continuously doing research on Aflatoxin related foods. Moreover MOH always keep abreast of development in Aflatoxin research by international agencies such as Codex, FAO, WHO, USDA and others.

What is the permitted level of Aflatoxin in foods?

According to Food Regulations 1985, maximum permitted level of Aflatoxin in specific food as shown in Table II Fifteenth Schedule are as follows:

Food
Mycological Contaminated
Maximum permitted
proportion in microgram per kilogram ( µg/kg)
Groundnuts for further processing
Aflatoxin
15
Ready to eat groundnuts
Aflatoxin
5
Milk
Aflatoxin
0.5
Others
Aflatoxin
5

 

 

Last reviewed : 19 April 2012
Writer : Norrani bt. Eksan
Reviewer : Prof. Dr. Norimah A. Karim