Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Aflatoxins: Finding solutions for improved food safety

Date Published: 
November 1, 2013

Aflatoxins are a naturally occurring carcinogenic byproduct of common fungi on grains and other crops, particularly maize and groundnuts. They pose a significant public health risk in many tropical developing countries and are also a barrier to the growth of domestic and international commercial markets for food and feed. In recent years the aflatoxin problem has garnered greatly increased attention from both policy and donor communities around the globe.

What can be done to reduce the detrimental impacts of aflatoxins? Because growth of the molds that produce aflatoxins is caused by multiple factors, and because they must be controlled along the entire value chain from production to consumption, only a robust multifaceted approach to controlling aflatoxins is likely to be effective.

The nineteen briefs in this set thus provide different perspectives on aflatoxin risks and solutions. The analyses fall under four broad themes: (1) what is known about the health risks from aflatoxins; (2) how to overcome market constraints to improved aflatoxin control by building new market channels and incentives; (3) what is the international policy context for taking action in developing countries; and (4) what is the state of research on new aflatoxin control technologies, including new methods for aflatoxin detection, crop breeding, biological control, food storage and handling, and postharvest mitigation.

These briefs collectively provide a much clearer picture of the state of current efforts at combatting aflatoxins. They also identify what gaps loom particularly large—including the need for contry-specific risk analysis and for testing integrated solutions for the entire supply chain—in our global efforts to effectively reduce human exposure to aflatoxins and increase the economic returns to smallholders in agriculture.