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KNOWLEDGE FOR POLICY

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Publication | 2019

Retrospective and Prospective Look at Aflatoxin Research and Development from a Practical Standpoint

Among the array of structurally and toxicologically diverse mycotoxins, aflatoxins have attracted the most interest of scientific research due to their high toxicity and incidence in foods and feeds. Despite the undeniable progress made in various aspects related to aflatoxins, the ultimate goal consisting of reducing the associated public health risks worldwide is far from being reached due to multiplicity of social, political, economic, geographic, climatic, and development factors. However, a reasonable degree of health protection is attained in industrialized countries owing to their scientific, administrative, and financial capacities allowing them to use high-tech agricultural management systems. Less fortunate situations exist in equatorial and sub-equatorial developing countries mainly practicing traditional agriculture managed by smallholders for subsistence, and where the climate is suitable for mould growth and aflatoxin production. This situation worsens due to climatic change producing conditions increasingly suitable for aflatoxigenic mould growth and toxin production. Accordingly, it is difficult to harmonize the regulatory standards of aflatoxins worldwide, which prevents agri-foods of developing countries from accessing the markets of industrialized countries. To tackle the multi-faceted aflatoxin problem, actions should be taken collectively by the international community involving scientific research, technological and social development, environment protection, awareness promotion, etc. International cooperation should foster technology transfer and exchange of pertinent technical information. This review presents the main historical discoveries leading to our present knowledge on aflatoxins and the challenges that should be addressed presently and in the future at various levels to ensure higher health protection for everybody. In short, it aims to elucidate where we come from and where we should go in terms of aflatoxin research/development.