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Published On: Thu, Jan 23rd, 2014

Philippines FDA issues aflatoxin warning for prepackaged peanuts

The Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued consumer warning Wednesday after laboratory testing on several locally grow and imported prepackaged peanuts contained higher than acceptable levels of aflatoxin B1, according to a advisory released Jan. 22. 

According to the advisory, FDA acting director general Kenneth Hartigan Go said, “The FDA laboratory has tested several pre-packaged peanuts, both imported and locally manufactured, that contained levels of Aflatoxin B1 beyond the acceptable limit of 20 ppb (ug/kg).”

Image/USDA

Image/USDA

The FDA did not say which brands of the pre-packed peanuts that they found with excessive amounts of the toxin.

Peanuts are agricultural crops that are dried after harvesting. If not properly dried, molds can grow on the raw peanuts easily, causing them to rot. As the molds feed on the grain, they produce waste products known as mycotoxins.

Aflatoxin is a mycotoxin, a natural toxin produced as a secondary metabolite to certain strains of the fungus Aspergillus, in particular Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.

The toxin is then excreted onto plants or pre-processed foods, some intended for human consumption.

Aflatoxins are contaminants of foods intended for people or animals as a result of fungal contamination. The most common foods implicated are cereals like corn, wheat and rice, oilseeds like peanuts and sunflower, and spices. However, the toxin can affect a very wide range of food stuffs (see below).

Different factors contribute to aflatoxin contamination. In semi-arid climates, the effect of drought can increase the amount of Aspergillus in the air causing pre-harvest contamination of certain crops.

Crops grown and stored in more tropical environments where the temperature and humidity is high usually have a higher risk of both pre and post-harvest contamination. Of course, much of the problem lies with homegrown crops that are not harvested or stored properly.

Aflatoxin poisoning can be broken up into acute and chronic disease depending on the amount of toxin ingested. When people (or animals) ingest aflatoxin contaminated foods, the liver is the main target for disease.

There is a direct link between aflatoxin poisoning and liver cancer. Liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma is an important public health concern in many parts of the world due to aflatoxin. In some countries, acute aflatoxin poisoning results in liver failure and death in up to 40% of cases.

Prevention and control of aflatoxin in developing countries is mainly focused on good agricultural practices.

Because it is impossible to completely eliminate this danger, in the United States feeds and grains are laboratory tested for levels of aflatoxins and food with unacceptable levels are removed from the market.

Foods most commonly affected by aflatoxins (from the USDA’s Food Safety Research Information Office):

• Cereals (maize, corn, sorghum, pearl millet, rice, wheat)
• Oilseeds (peanut, soybean, sunflower, cotton)
• Spices (chillies, black pepper, coriander, turmeric, ginger)
• Tree nuts (almonds, pistachio, walnuts, coconut)
• Dried fruits (sultanas, figs)
• Cocoa beans
• Milk, eggs, and meat products*

* Milk, eggs, and meat products are occasionally contaminated due to the consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated feed by animals.

“Although aflatoxin makes peanuts taste bitter, some unscrupulous food processors or peanut vendors simply mix these bad peanuts with the good ones rather than throw them out,” he said, stressing that mixing contaminated ingredients with unadulterated ones has been prohibited by the FDA Act of 2009, and the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

“All food manufacturers are hereby warned against processing aflatoxin-contaminated or adulterated raw ingredients into finished products,” the acting Director General said.

“All consumers are strongly advised to buy only FDA-registered prepackaged products.”

 

For more infectious disease news and information,  visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page and the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show page.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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