|Home > Health and Economic Impacts of Mycotoxins in Foods in Latin America and the Caribbean|
Myotoxins, including aflatoxins, trichotehecenes, zearalenone, fumonisins deoxynivalenol and ochratoxin A, are potent toxic fungal metabolites that contaminate staple crops and pose serious health problems to man and animals when contaminated foods or feeds are ingested. In acute mycotoxicosis, severe symptoms of illness such as acute liver damage, jaundice, vomiting, high fever and hemorrhage can occur very quickly after consumption of contaminated foods, and can result in death. Chronic dietary intake of mycotoxins in humans and animals has been related to development of cancer, growth retardation, micronutrient deficiency and impairment of the immune system. The Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that 25 % of the world’s food crop is contaminated with mycotoxins. While many countries in Europe and North America enforce regulations that control the levels of mycotoxins in foods, efforts to educate the public on the dangers of mycotoxins and to reduce the levels of aflatoxin contamination in foods in Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries have been rather weak. A number of crops (maize, wheat, coffee, soybeans, barley, sunflower, groundnuts, tree nuts, cocoa, root tubers and dairy products) that are produced and consumed in LAC countries are highly susceptible to fungal contamination and mycotoxin production and pose health problems for the populace. Mycotoxins also cause serious economic and financial losses to domestic food producers and exporters in LAC. In this paper, we review reports of mycotoxin contamination in crops and food products in LAC and consider the economic and health impacts of mycotoxin contamination in foods to these countries.