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Scientists are researching ways to reduce food loss to aflatoxins, which pose health risks to humans and livestock


A study published in the journal Food Security reported that aflatoxins, which are dangerous carcinogens, can cause food loss and health concerns such as liver cancer and immune suppression in children. Per the study authors, agricultural research can help determine effective ways of improving food safety and food accessibility for poor consumers.

  • Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by fungi and they are one of the most serious food safety problems affecting staple crops. Meanwhile, aflatoxins are responsible for 90,000 cases of liver cancer yearly.
  • The study aims to examine how an epidemiological and economic perspective on aflatoxin research can show the connection between health and nutrition outcomes.
  • Even though countless agricultural innovations are frequently discovered, about one billion people around the world still go hungry. At least two billion people get sick because of the food they eat.
  • The divide between agriculture, health, and nutrition might be behind the disease concerns linked with food and farming. The new Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (CRP A4NH) is an attempt to address this divide.
  • Aflatoxins are the most relevant human health concern linked to staple crops. Several species of the Aspergillus fungus produce the toxic secondary metabolites called aflatoxins. Consuming large amounts of the toxin may cause death, and constant exposure to aflatoxins can cause liver cancer.
  • To address the problem concerning aflatoxins, outlooks regarding economics and epidemiology can be combined to boost “farmer adoption, distribution models, and market development and incentives,” all of which are necessary for the impact pathways that can help CGIAR research go to scale.

The researchers posit that further study can help them conclude the critical link between aflatoxins and cases of liver cancer and immune suppression among adolescents. Additional studies may also help them establish conclusive methods to reduce food loss, which can then resolve world hunger.

Journal reference: 

Grace D, Mahuku G, Hoffmann V, Atherstone C, Upadhyaya HD, Bandyopadhyay R. INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH TO REDUCE FOOD RISKS: CASE STUDIES ON AFLATOXINS. Food Security. 2015; 7(3):569–582. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-015-0469-2

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