Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) in the US documented frequent occurrence of aflatoxin – a toxin produced by Aspergillus molds that commonly infect corn, peanuts, pistachios and almonds – in sunflower seeds and their products.Nearly 60 per cent of seed samples and 80 per cent of cake samples were contaminated with aflatoxins.
Researchers found that 14 per cent of seeds and 17 per cent of cakes were contaminated above 20 parts per billion, the level considered safe by the US Food and Drug Administration. Some samples had levels of several hundred parts per billion.
The study was conducted in Tanzania, but the problem is by no means isolated there. Chronic exposure to aflatoxin causes an estimated 25,000-155,000 deaths worldwide each year, from corn and peanuts alone. It is one of the most potent liver carcinogens, researchers said.
“These high aflatoxin levels, in a commodity frequently consumed by the Tanzanian population, indicate that local authorities must implement interventions to prevent and control aflatoxin contamination along the sunflower commodity value chain, to enhance food and feed safety in Tanzania,” said Gale Strasburg of MSU.