Maximum levels for aflatoxins

Aflatoxins are mycotoxins produced by certain species of Aspergillus, usually at high temperatures and humidity levels. Aflatoxins may be present in a large number of foods, e.g., nuts, groundnuts, dried fruit, cereals (especially maize) and spices. The European Scientific Committee for Food expressed in its opinion of 23 September 1994 (12) that aflatoxins are geno-toxic carcinogens. For such substances there is no threshold below which no harmful effect is observed, and, therefore, no tolerable daily intake can be set. Current scientific and technical knowledge and improvements in production and storage techniques do not suffice to prevent aflatoxin biosynthesis and it is not technically possible to completely eliminate aflatoxins in food. Thus, the maximum levels are set as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) (Table 1).

The aflatoxin group is a series of related compounds with varying toxicity, incidence and levels in food. Aflatoxin B1 is the most toxic member of the aflatoxin group. For safety reasons, there are limits to both the total aflatoxin (aflatoxins B1, B2, G1 and G2) content of food and the aflatoxin B1 content alone. Aflatoxin M1 is a metabolic product of aflatoxin B1 that occurs in milk and milk products from animals that have consumed contaminated feed. Aflatoxin M1 also is a genotoxic carcinogen. Therefore, its presence is minimized in milk and milk products intended for human consumption to levels that are reasonably achievable. For aflatoxin M1 in foods for infants and young children, the current maximum level may be reduced further in light of developments in analytical procedures.

Sorting or other physical treatments enable the reduction of the aflatoxin content of groundnuts, nuts, dried fruits and maize. To minimize the effects on trade, higher aflatoxin contents are permitted for products that are not intended for direct human consumption or that are ingredients

Table 1. Maximum levels (ng/g) for aflatoxins in foods.

Food(s) Maximum aflatoxin level

Food(s) Maximum aflatoxin level

Table 1. Maximum levels (ng/g) for aflatoxins in foods.

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