Aflatoxins: Occurrence and health risks

Aflatoxins: Occurrence and health risks
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Aflatoxins: Occurrence and health risks
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Updated 07 November 2012

Aflatoxins: Occurrence and health risks

Aflatoxins: Occurrence and health risks

Aflatoxins are toxic substances produced by certain microorganisms in/on foods and feeds. Aflatoxins have been associated with various diseases, such as aflatoxicosis, in livestock, domestic animals and humans throughout the world. The occurrence of aflatoxins is influenced by certain environmental factors; hence the extent of contamination will vary with geographic location, agricultural and agronomic practices, and the susceptibility of commodities to fungal invasion during pre-harvest, storage, and/or processing periods. Aflatoxins have received greater attention than any other toxins because of their demonstrated potent carcinogenic effect in susceptible animals and their acute toxicological effects in humans. As it is realized that absolute safety is never achieved, many countries have attempted to limit exposure to aflatoxins by imposing regulatory limits on commodities intended for use as food and feed.
In the 1960 more than 100,000 young turkeys on poultry farms in England died in the course of a few months from an apparently new disease that was termed ‘Turkey X disease’. It was soon found that the difficulty was not limited to turkeys. Ducklings and young pheasants were also affected and heavy mortality was experienced. An intensive investigation revealed that there are four major aflatoxins: B1, B2, G1, G2 plus two additional metabolic products, M1 and M2 that are of significance as direct contaminants of foods and feeds.
Aflatoxins often occur in crops in the field prior to harvest. Postharvest contamination can occur if crop drying is delayed and during storage of the crop if water is allowed to exceed critical values for the mold growth. Insect or rodent infestations facilitate mold invasion of some stored commodities. Aflatoxins are detected occasionally in milk, cheese, corn, peanuts, cottonseed, nuts, almonds, figs, spices, and a variety of other foods and feeds. Milk, eggs, and meat products are sometimes contaminated because of the animal consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated feed. However, the commodities with the highest risk of aflatoxin contamination are corn, peanuts, and cottonseed.
Corn is probably the commodity of greatest worldwide concern, because it is grown in climates that are likely to have perennial contamination with aflatoxins, and corn is the staple food of many countries. Nevertheless, procedures used in the processing of corn help to reduce contamination of the resulting food product. This is because although aflatoxins are stable to moderately stable in most food processes, they are unstable in processes such as those used in making tortillas that employ alkaline conditions or oxidizing steps. Aflatoxin-contaminated corn and cottonseed meal in dairy rations have resulted in aflatoxin M1 contaminated milk and milk products, including non-fat dry milk, cheese, and yogurt. 
Fungal growth and aflatoxin contamination are the consequence of interactions among the fungus, the host and the environment. The appropriate combinations of these factors determine the infestation and the amount of aflatoxin produced. However, a suitable substrate is required for fungal growth and subsequent toxin production, although the precise factor(s) that initiates toxin formation is not well understood. Water stress, high-temperature stress, and insect damage of the host plant are major determining factors in mold infestation and toxin production. Similarly, specific crop growth stages, poor fertility, high crop densities, and weed competition have been associated with increased mold growth and toxin production. Aflatoxin formation is also affected by associated growth of other molds or microbes. For example, preharvest aflatoxin contamination of peanuts and corn is favored by high temperatures, prolonged drought conditions, and high insect activity; while postharvest production of aflatoxins on corn and peanuts is favored by warm temperatures and high humidity. 
Humans are exposed to aflatoxins by consuming foods contaminated with products of fungal growth. Such exposure is difficult to avoid because fungal growth in foods is not easy to prevent. Even though heavily contaminated food supplies are not permitted in the market place in developed countries, concern still remains for the possible adverse effects resulting from long-term exposure to low levels of aflatoxins in the food supply. Evidence of acute aflatoxicosis in humans has been reported from many parts of the world, namely the Third World Countries, like Taiwan, Uganda, India, and many others. The syndrome is characterized by vomiting, abdominal pain, pulmonary edema, convulsions, coma, and death with cerebral edema and fatty involvement of the liver, kidneys, and heart.
Conditions increasing the likelihood of acute aflatoxicosis in humans include limited availability of food, environmental conditions that favor fungal development in crops and commodities, and lack of regulatory systems for aflatoxin monitoring and control. Because aflatoxins, especially aflatoxin B1, are potent carcinogens in some animals, there is interest in the effects of long-term exposure to low levels of these important toxins on humans. In 1988, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) placed aflatoxin B1 on the list of human carcinogens. This is supported by a number of epidemiological studies done in Asia and Africa that have demonstrated a positive association between dietary aflatoxins and Liver Cell Cancer (LCC). 
Additionally, the expression of aflatoxin-related diseases in humans may be influenced by factors such as age, sex, nutritional status, and/or concurrent exposure to other causative agents such as viral hepatitis or parasite infestation. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, strict standards have been set by the Saudi Arabian Standard Organization (SASO) for the presence of Aflatoxins in edible commodities (0.05 micrograms per gram). 
The economic impact of aflatoxins derive directly from crop and livestock losses as well as indirectly from the cost of regulatory programs designed to reduce risks to animal and human health. The Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 25 percent of the world’s food crops are affected by aflatoxins. Aflatoxin losses to livestock and poultry producers from aflatoxin-contaminated feeds include death and the more subtle effects of immune system suppression, reduced growth rates, and losses in feed efficiency. Other adverse economic effects of aflatoxins include lower yields for food and fiber crops.
In addition, the ability of aflatoxins to cause cancer and related diseases in humans given their seemingly unavoidable occurrence in foods and feeds make the prevention and detoxification of these toxic substances one of the most challenging toxicology issues of present time. 

— Dr. Muhammad Waqar Ashraf is a professor of Environmental Chemistry at Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University.

[email protected]


What We Are Eating Today: Pita Pack

What We Are Eating Today: Pita Pack
Updated 25 February 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Pita Pack

What We Are Eating Today: Pita Pack

Pita Pack is a Saudi sandwich shop with a diverse international menu. From traditional proteins to fresh salads, Pita Pack offers the experience of a quick bite that is both wholesome and familiar, which you can enjoy alone or with friends.

The recipes are inspired by a fusion of western culture and Arabian flavors.

The shop has a lively approach to naming its orders — deploying pop-culture puns, energetic language and casual vocabulary.

The sandwiches are made with fresh, light, medium-size pita buns, tortillas and brioche bread.

In addition to the more than 30 options on the menu, including vegan, seafood, beef and chicken, their tender American Philly cheesesteak sandwich is one of the best.

If you were thinking of offering your friends in the office or your family a brunch or dinner on the go, the shop offers "Pita box," a family-size option that includes an array of 20 different sandwiches of your choice.

Each order has its special sauce to complement the ingredients used. The restaurant also offers a selection of internationally inspired appetizers and salads.

It is located in Jeddah, Hilmi Kutbi Street, Al-Zahra district.

For more information visit Instagram @pitapackksa.
 


What We Are Buying Today: BEES

What We Are Buying Today: BEES
Photo/Supplied
Updated 20 February 2021

What We Are Buying Today: BEES

What We Are Buying Today: BEES
  • BEES offers a variety of raw honey products and types, including white clover, twohig, konak and manuka, in small and large jars

BEES is a Saudi brand that supports the production of local and imported honey, and aims to spread awareness about bees and healthy food.
The company works with beekeepers and food producers from around the world to bring the finest products to the Saudi market.
BEES offers a variety of raw honey products and types, including white clover, twohig, konak and manuka, in small and large jars.
Manuka honey is said to possess natural medicinal and antibacterial powers, and is ranked according to a “unique manuka factor,” which indicates its healing properties.
The company’s portable mini honey packets allow honey to be taken anywhere. The 5 gm packets are available in all honey types, and will help you start your day with a healthy dose of sweetness in your tea or hot drink.
For more information visit Instagram @bees.sa or check linktr.ee/BEES.SA


Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects
A reduction of carbohydrate intake and increase in fats place the body in a metabolic state called ketosis. (Supplied)
Updated 20 February 2021

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects
  • “The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or as often as before”

JEDDAH: The ketogenic diet has become one of the fastest-growing dietary trends, but experts have warned that many of its advocates are unaware of the dangerous side effects the diet can cause.

According to Healthline.com, the ketogenic diet, commonly known as keto, is a low-carb, high-fat diet that shares similarities with low carb and Atkins diets. A reduction of carbohydrate intake and increase in fats place the body in a metabolic state called ketosis.
However, the diet has led to severe side effects for some people.
“The keto diet should only be done under clinical supervision, and only for brief periods of time,” Dr. Ruwaida Idrees, a nutritionist, CEO and owner of Hayati Ghethaei, a catering company, told Arab News.
She added that the keto diet should only be considered in “extreme cases,” because it can do “more harm than good.”
Idrees said: “It can cause damage to the heart, since the heart is also a muscle.”
Consulting a doctor, completing necessary tests and discussing goals with a clinical dietitian should all be considered before starting a keto diet, she added.
Idrees said there are many misconceptions surrounding the keto diet and exercise, adding that exercise can still reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and other health conditions.
People need to be careful about the types of exercises they practice, she said. “The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or as often as before.”
Fouz Ghannamil, a fitness trainer, told Arab News that the diet appeared to work for many people. “It is good, but my own opinion is that the human body needs more nutrition than just fat and a really small dose of carbohydrates.”
She added: “It has a high portion of proteins which is good, but the fat sources, no matter how good they are, are a bit too much. It is better in my opinion that the portion of fat and carbs is balanced.”
Ghannamil suggested a better alternative for people looking to shed pounds this year — sticking to a diet of “80 percent healthy food and 20 percent junk food.
“Because naturally, your mind will desire junk food that is not natural, however, it has loads of fat in and your body can use it as an energy source.”
She warned people considering a new diet to stick to a balanced nutrition pyramid that contains everything they need: Protein, carbohydrates and fat.
She added that people should avoid diets based solely on numbers rather than personal experience.
Idrees, on the other hand, proposed the Mediterranean diet as a simpler alternative to the keto diet, saying that it has a good balance of seafood and other sources of proteins, moderate portions of dairy and a limited intake of red meat.


What We Are Eating Today: Maui

What We Are Eating Today: Maui
Photo/Supplied
Updated 19 February 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Maui

What We Are Eating Today: Maui
  • Customers can also create their own poke bowls using their favorite ingredients, marinades, toppings, and sauces

A Hawaiian-concept restaurant is bringing the taste of the tropics to Saudi Arabia.
Based in Jeddah, Maui offers an array of classic dishes — with a Japanese and Mexican twist — from the Pacific US state including poke bowls, soups, salads, and juices.
The eatery, that accepts online orders only, has a mouthwatering menu consisting of sushi burritos or sushi wrap sandwiches using seaweed nori sheet instead of flatbread. They are available with five different fillings including fresh raw salmon or tuna, tempura shrimp or chicken, and vegan and vegetarian choices.
Customers can also create their own poke bowls using their favorite ingredients, marinades, toppings, and sauces.
Maui is available on delivery platforms @lugmety, @thechefz_, and @careemksa.


Startup of the Week: A Jeddah-based store offering eco-friendly alternatives

Startup of the Week: A Jeddah-based store  offering eco-friendly alternatives
Photo/Supplied
Updated 16 February 2021

Startup of the Week: A Jeddah-based store offering eco-friendly alternatives

Startup of the Week: A Jeddah-based store  offering eco-friendly alternatives
  • The startup is planning to add wooden utensils, bamboo straws and key charms made from coconut shells to its line of products

C.B. Jeddah is a store where you can find high-quality, handmade coconut and wooden bowls, which are ideal for all kinds of food, from ice cream to soups, salads and even hot curry. The Jeddah-based store ships orders all over the Kingdom.
Shaima Agil, a public administration student, inaugurated the store last month.
The idea came to her when she decided to adopt a more health-conscious lifestyle and went online to look for recipes. “I saw a picture of a smoothie in a coconut bowl, and I was fascinated by how beautiful it was! It was hard to get one here in Saudi Arabia, though, so I thought: Why don’t I buy these bowls myself and try to sell them here? I’ve been always interested in natural, environment-friendly products, so I bought many bowls and created an Instagram account to display them.”
The startup is planning to add wooden utensils, bamboo straws and key charms made from coconut shells to its line of products.
C.B. Jeddah imports its bowls from Indonesia, where coconut palms grow in abundance and where talented local artisans make the bowls by hand.
Agil explained that artisans first split the coconuts in half, drain them of water, carve out the flesh, then craft and polish them gently until they shine.
“Nature gives us everything we need, so let’s be nice and not harm it with industrial waste,” she said.
Environmental sustainability was at the heart of her startup.
“The huge amounts of coconuts used by companies to produce their different products result in much waste. Some countries burn them, which increases carbon and other harmful emissions. That is why reclaiming them and recycling them helps our planet.”
Customers can text C.B. Jeddah via direct messages on their Instagram account @c.b.jeddah.
“Our products are suitable for those who love nature, decorating and food photography. They also make great gifts,” said the founder.