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Supporting policy with scientific evidence

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Publication | 2021

Worldwide aflatoxin contamination of agricultural products and foods: From occurrence to control

Aflatoxins represent a global public health and economic concern as they are responsible for significant adverse health and economic issues affecting consumers and farmers worldwide. Produced by fungal species from the Aspergillus genus, aflatoxins are a toxic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic group of fungal metabolites that routinely contaminate food and agricultural products. Climate and diet are essential factors in the aflatoxin contamination of food and subsequent human exposure process. Countri es with warmer climates and staple foods that are aflatoxin-susceptible shoulder a substantial portion of the global aflatoxins burden. Enactment of regulations, prevention of pre- and postharvest contamination, decontamination, and detoxification have been used to prevent human dietary exposure to aflatoxin. Exploiting their chemical and structural properties, means are devised to detect and quantify aflatoxin presence in foods. Herein, recent developments in several important aspects impacting aflatoxin contamination of the food supply, including: fungal producers of the toxin, occurrence in food, worldwide regulations, detection methods, preventive strategies, and removal and degradation methods were reviewed and presented. In conclusion, aflatoxin continues to be a major food safety problem, especially in developing countries where regulatory limits do not exist or are not adequately enforced. Finally, knowledge gaps and current challenges in each discussed aspect were identified, and new solutions were proposed.