Comment; Overview of the risks of mycotoxins in the food chain with summary of the major mycotoxins involved and their toxic effects as well as strategies to remove them from the food supply.

Rajeev Bhat, Ravishankar V. Rai, and A.A. Karim

ABSTRACT: Disease outbreaks due to the consumption of contaminated food and feedstuff are a recurring problem worldwide. The major factor contributing to contamination are microorganisms, especially fungi, which produce low-molecular-weight compounds as secondary metabolites, with confirmed toxic properties referred to as mycotoxins. Several mycotoxins reported to date are cosmopolitan in distribution and incur severe health-associated risks (including cancer and neurological disorders). Hence, creating awareness among consumers, as well as developing new methods for detection and inactivation is of great importance for food safety. In this review, the focus is on the occurrence of various types of mycotoxins in food and feed associated with risks to humans and livestock, as well as legislation put forth by various authorities, and on presently practiced detoxification methods. Brief descriptions on recent developments in mycotoxin detection methodology are also inlcuded. This review is meant to be informative not only for health-conscious consumers but also for experts in the field to pave the way for future research to fill the existing gaps in our knowledge with regard to mycotoxins and food safety.

The occurrence of mycotoxins in the food chain is an unavoidable and serious problem the world is facing. Apart from practicing good sanitary measures, awareness has to be created to indicate the toxic effects associated with mycotoxin poisonings in humans and livestock. Wide gaps still exist on the toxicological effects of feeding animals mycotoxin-contaminated feeds. Research in this field is a necessity as there is every possibility that the toxins will enter the human food chain. Further research also needs to be focused on the generation of data dealing with epidemiological and toxicity effects, especially in humans. Implementation of strict quarantine rules with regard to mycotoxin contamination has to be made mandatory worldwide. Emphasis should be laid towards development of newer low-cost mycotoxin detection instruments, which are portable, reliable, and easy to handle at field levels. Development of new genetically modified plants by the application of genetic engineering that might be resistant to fungal invasion might also prove to be a good option. Developing new protocols and strategies to compare the costs and benefits of various controlling agents against fungal pathogens and mycotoxin production might be beneficial for economic stability of a commodity or an agricultural area.

Dr. Raymond Oenbrink