Global risk assessment of aflatoxins in maize and peanuts: Are regulatory standards adequately protective?

Felicia Wu, Shaina L. Stacy, Thomas W. Kensler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The aflatoxins are a group of fungal metabolites that contaminate a variety of staple crops, including maize and peanuts, and cause an array of acute and chronic human health effects. Aflatoxin B1 in particular is a potent liver carcinogen, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) risk is multiplicatively higher for individuals exposed to both aflatoxin and chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV). In this work, we sought to answer the question: do current aflatoxin regulatory standards around the world adequately protect human health? Depending upon the level of protection desired, the answer to this question varies. Currently, most nations have a maximum tolerable level of total aflatoxins in maize and peanuts ranging from 4 to 20 ng/g. If the level of protection desired is that aflatoxin exposures would not increase lifetime HCC risk by more than 1 in 100,000 cases in the population, then most current regulatory standards are not adequately protective even if enforced, especially in low-income countries where large amounts of maize and peanuts are consumed and HBV prevalence is high. At the protection level of 1 in 10,000 lifetime HCC cases in the population, however, almost all aflatoxin regulations worldwide are adequately protective, with the exception of several nations in Africa and Latin America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-259
Number of pages9
JournalToxicological Sciences
Volume135
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • (3-6) aflatoxin
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology

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