Aflatoxins in Foods

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Changed on: 15.12.2020

What are aflatoxins?

Aflatoxins are toxins produced by two species of moulds (mycotoxins) of the Aspergillus family. There are about 20 aflatoxins occurring naturally, with Aflatoxin B1 being the most common in food.

What health risk do aflatoxins have?

Aflatoxins have cancerogenic potential and can damage our genetic material. If food with high aflatoxin levels is consumed once or over a short period of time, no adverse health effects should occur. However, consumed over a longer period of time, this can lead to kidney and liver damage, liver cirrhosis and kidney and liver cancer.

Can aflatoxins levels be reduced using heat?

Most mycotoxins are heat-retardant, which means they cannot be destroyed or reduced in number during food processing, such as through cooking and baking.

I have a product that was recalled because of increased aflatoxin levels. What shall I do with it?

A product that has been recalled because of aflatoxin and food containing this product must not be consumed.

What regulations are there in respect to aflatoxins in foods that are placed on the market? 

Given the fact that contamination with aflatoxins cannot be avoided permanently, the European Commission has defined maximum levels for individual foods and feeds. Products exceeding the maximum levels must not be distributed in the EU.

As soon as a manufacturer or distributer has become aware of a problem with any of their products either by themselves or through others (e.g. official inspections), they have to carry out the appropriate measures (including product recall).

Further information

Product warnings and product recalls
European Food Safety Authority: Aflatoxins in Food
German Institute for Risk Assessment: FAQ on Aflatoxins in Food and Feeds