Occurrence and toxicity of fumonisins

The fumonisins are a group of toxic metabolites produced mainly by the fungus Fusarium verticillioides. Fusarium verticillioides is the most frequently isolated fungal species from virtually all maize kernels, including those that look healthy and are intended for human consumption (Alberts et al., 1990). Furthermore, fumonisins have been detected in maize and maize based foods marketed in many countries worldwide including several countries in Eastern and Southern Africa (Table 2). The presence of toxigenic Fusarium spp. with a prevalence of F. verticillioides also has been reported from millet and sorghum from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Kenya (Onyike et al., 1991; Onyike and Nelson, 1993). Whether all of these strains are fumonisin producers, however, needs further investigation given the recognition that Fusarium moniliforme, the species to which many of these strains were identified, is a species complex. The F. moniliforme name should no longer be used (Seifert et al., 2003) and the identity of many of the strains, especially those not from maize, may not be F. verticillioides, the species that usually dominates on maize and may not produce any significant amount of fumonisin (Leslie et al., 2005).

Table 2. Occurrence of fumonisin B1 in cereals and cereal-based food commodities reported in several countries from Eastern and Southern Africa.

Country

Commodity

Conc. Range

Reference

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