Socioeconomic impacts of aflatoxin contamination Impact on nutrition health and environment

Aflatoxins are among the main food contaminants with significant negative impact on health, food and nutritional security and incomes at the household, community and national levels. Food contaminated with aflatoxins may result in fatal aflatoxicosis and chronic mutagenic and carcinogenic effects with long latency periods. Aflatoxins also are associated with exacerbation of the protein malnutrition syndrome Kwashiorkor in human children (Ramjee et al., 1992). Estimating the human health effects of aflatoxins in terms of primary liver cancer, requires data on human exposure to aflatoxins. In developing countries, many individuals are not only malnourished but also are exposed chronically to high levels of this mycotoxin in their diet (Cardwell, 2001). The health risks decrease labor productivity, while increasing health costs and overall income losses due to opportunity costs linked to lost days of work (Lubulwa and Davis, 1994).

Aflatoxins also are amongst the most potent mutagenic and carcinogenic substances known for animals (Henry et al., 2001). Symptoms of severe aflatoxicosis include hemorrhagic necrosis of the liver, bile duct proliferation, edema, and lethargy (Anonymous, 2005). The impact of fungal toxins on animals extends beyond their obvious effects in producing death in the wide variety of animals that are likely to consume mycotoxin-contaminated grains or feeds. Aflatoxins are proven carcinogens, immunotoxins and causes of growth retardation in domesticated animals (Williams et al., 2004).

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