Living standards and food security

For the food insecure, the possible presence of mycotoxins in their food only gets attention when the consumption of that food leads to death sooner than the rejection of that food -and most mycotoxins do not kill their victims that quickly. Food insecurity, associated with a poor harvest, contributed to the 2004 and 2005 outbreaks of acute poisoning in Kenya (Okioma, Chapter 11). Economic stress also increases chronic exposure. In Ghana, AF-albumin levels increase with the number of children in high school (Jolly, unpublished data). The number of children in high school is an indicator of economic stress, since families must pay for school fees and books. Thus poverty is clearly a factor in determining the exposure of people to aflatoxin in the developing world. Lower quality grain with more risk of mycotoxin contamination at dangerous levels is purchased by those with limited incomes since their hunger overrides their preference for higher quality foods.

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