Aflatoxin is a type of poisonous substance produced by certain molds, especially Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. These molds can grow on crops such as peanuts, corn, and tree nuts, as well as in stored grains and other foods. Aflatoxins are a major concern in agriculture and food production because they can cause serious health problems in humans and animals, including liver damage, immune system suppression, and an increased risk of cancer.
Aflatoxins are produced by the molds as a natural defense mechanism, especially when conditions are hot and humid. They are resistant to heat, which means that cooking or processing contaminated foods may not always remove them. As a result, food safety regulations in many countries place strict limits on the amount of aflatoxins that can be present in food products.
Exposure to aflatoxins can occur through ingestion of contaminated foods, as well as inhalation of mold spores in the air. Certain populations, such as people living in developing countries with less stringent food safety regulations, may be at a higher risk of aflatoxin exposure. Aflatoxin contamination can also have significant economic impacts on the food industry, as it can lead to crop losses, decreased quality, and even rejection of exports.