Mycotoxins in Foods

  • M. O. Moss


One aspect of the saprophytic capability of many of the fungi is their production of a chemically diverse range of metabolites. When these metabolites occur in food, or animal feeds, and are toxic to man and his domesticated animals they are referred to as mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins may occur in food, either by their direct production as a result of fungi growing on the food, or the raw materials used in its manufacture, or indirectly by being passed along a food chain. The excretion of aflatoxin M1 in the milk of cows fed on a feed contaminated with aflatoxin B1 is an example of the latter situation. Illnesses resulting from direct contamination have been referred to as primary mycotoxicoses and those from indirect contamination as secondary mycotoxicoses.

There can be no doubt about the very large number of mould metabolites which can be shown to be toxic in laboratory experiments and there are many well documented examples of disease in animals associated with mycotoxins. A diverse range of biological activity has been described including liver damage, kidney damage, disturbance of the nervous system, disturbance of the hormonal control of reproduction and carcinogenicity. Mycotoxins may be produced as complex mixtures in moulded food and it is now appreciated that some are able to act synergistically with each other. The symptoms observed in a situation like this may not always be rationalised in terms of the known toxicology of individual mycotoxins.

Aflatoxin is one of the most potent carcinogens for some animal species, although it is not yet known whether it is carcinogenic to man. A number of epidemiological studies in different parts of the world have demonstrated a positive correlation between liver cancer and levels of aflatoxin in the available diets. Because of the uncertainty about the chronic toxicity of aflatoxin to man, many countries attempt to control its presence in food and feeds but there are differences in approach from one country to another.


Rectal Prolapse Mycotoxin Production Cladosporium Herbarum Equilibrium Relative Humidity Facial Eczema 
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Copyright information

© Applied Science Publishers Ltd 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. O. Moss
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK

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