Friday, 19 November 2010

Mycotoxins Linked to Low Growth Rate in Children

Scientists in Tanzania, Africa have found that one year old children fed on a staple diet of corn flour-based foods tend to consume levels of the mycotoxin fumonisin above that with is considered to be safe. The fumonisin comes from fungi (principally made by Fusarium but also Aspergillus) growing on the corn as it is grown and stored. The contamination can happen invisibly, giving no clues to the farmer that there is a problem and there is no way for most poor farmers to test his crop for mycotoxins.

Corn is staple food in many parts of the world (around a billion tons are produced annually) and is widely grown in warmer climates, so this problem could be far more widely spread than Africa, though in the developed world storage techniques after harvesting and screening for mycotoxins will help prevent the problem cropping up in those countries.

It is thought that this could be an important reason why many of these children have a low growth rate and is in addition to other possibilities such as poor diet and sanitation. Now this problem has been identified steps can be taken to reduce the levels of fumonisin in corn meal fed to humans and in particular young children.

Fumonisin levels are controllable by improving storage conditions and this can be achieved by greater investment in drying machinery and better education of the farmers.

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