Mycotoxin research sponsored by the Peanut CRSP

Ever since the Peanut CRSP began, aflatoxin has been a consistently high priority for the program. Early research focused on managing aflatoxin to decrease the exposure of peanut consumers in developing countries. The first initiatives (prior to 2000) focused on decreasing the levels of contamination through research on improved management techniques and decontamination. A sustained basic research effort was implemented to prevent/reduce the production of the toxin in peanuts, either by providing resistance to the causal fungi, or by developing ways to block toxin production by the fungus. Genes with this potential were identified and transferred into peanut, but since the techniques used included transformation of host plants with exogenous DNA the resulting lines have not yet been tested in the field. Associated with this research were education/extension activities to transfer to local industries the management techniques being developed or being applied in developed countries.

Peanut CRSP research and outreach has been effective in allowing formal commercial industries to manage aflatoxin and provide safe and exportable products (Galvez et al., 2002a,b). However, there has not been matching success in the small scale and informal sectors. For example, research in Ghana demonstrated that if available natural products, e.g., leaves of trees and spices, were included with stored peanuts then aflatoxin contamination could be decreased. These results have not been adopted despite extension efforts. Economic research determined that the failure of farmers and marketers to adopt aflatoxin management practices was associated with the lack of incentives to invest in these efforts. Peanuts commonly sell for the same price regardless of quality in many developing countries. We think that quality control is impractical in the informal, small-scale peanut sector of many developing countries. Thus, other options for protecting people by using a food additive approach have become more important.

Part of the earlier research sponsored by the Peanut CRSP focused on the decontamination of peanut oil produced in villages with primitive presses. Research at Texas A&M University found that a hydrated bentonite clay was particularly effective in binding afla-toxin (Huebner and Phillips, 2003). Although the porosity of this product makes it impractical as a technique to decontaminate oil, the properties of this clay led to a new approach to solving the problem of aflatoxin contamination. In animal studies with the clay as a feed additive, the clay provided excellent protection of the animals even at the highest levels of contamination known to occur naturally (7,000 ng/g).

Since 2001 the Peanut CRSP has continued with its efforts to manage aflatoxin in peanuts and has tested the additive for human use in an enterosorption strategy, e.g., Afriyie-Gyawu et al. (Chapter 25). This effort has become a high priority for the Peanut CRSP, particularly given the evidence now available for immune suppression and nutritional interference (Williams et al., 2004; Gong et al., Chapter 6; Jolly et al., Chapter 5).

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