Mycotoxin contamination a global food safety threat

More than 25% of the world’s crops are contaminated with poisonous moulds and fungi known as mycotoxins.

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These toxic chemical compounds are a serious food safety threat as they cause disease and death in humans and animals worldwide.

Prof Sarah De Saeger from Ghent University in Belgium, said in her presentation at the 2016 Autumn International Science Conference on Food Safety and Security in Johannesburg, that finding solutions to mycotoxins is a global struggle.

Aflatoxins, a type of mycotoxin, are carcinogenic and in Africa it can cause stunted growth in children. It is, however, a global issue and not only an African one, De Saeger said.

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She said there have been major advances globally in improving mycotoxin analysis.

“There are more than 400 known mycotoxins, but even more may exist,” she said.

De Saeger commended South Africa’s science and research community’s work into finding solutions that could reduce the risk of mycotoxtin contamination.

“In the European research community there is a belief that the food security problem needs to be solved first and food safety second. It is a pleasure to see that in South Africa food safety is seen as part of food security,” she said.