Scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, in St. Louis, MO and their collaborators at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Louisiana State University have made a significant research breakthrough by suppressing the aflatoxin-producing fungus in groundnut. The discovery has the potential to drastically improve food safety and reduce losses caused by the contamination from the poisonous carcinogen, aflatoxin. The discovery was recently published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal.
Aflatoxins pose a major risk to human and animal health worldwide and result in an enormous amount of food waste. The molds, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which infect groundnut, maize, cottonseed and chilly, produce these toxins which suppress the immune system, hinder growth in children and even cause liver cancer. The fungus which produces these toxins can stay dormant in soil for years. It infects maize and groundnut during drought and heat stress. Contamination also happens when grain is stored in hot, humid and poorly-ventilated conditions. Since aflatoxins are potent carcinogens, the United States does not allow the sale and export of food with aflatoxin levels exceeding 20 parts per billion (ppb). European Union standards are more stringent; the bar is 2 ppb. Read more