Over 200 academic, government and industry scientists, government officials and farming organizations from 27 countries met at Carleton University to discuss the important problem of mycotoxins in food and feed. This was the 5th meeting in a series initiated by a European Union group based at the National Research Council of Italy (CNR). Previous meetings had been held in Austria, Malaysia, South Africa and Argentina.
The presence of poisonous fungal toxins in food and animal feed was recognized in antiquity. The famous painting “Beggars”, by the Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel, depicts the sufferers of ergotism then called St. Anthony’s Fire. When it was realized that the disease was reduced by eliminating the fungal structures in the grain by sieving, this public health measure was promoted by the church.
Today, the presence of one or more of the five important mycotoxins in food and feed results in harm to human and animal health. The effects on human health are most felt in Africa, parts of Asia and Latin America. Considerable investments are made on research to reduce the impact on human health by improving the food supply. At the June G20 meeting, a group including Australia, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a fund to support a number of initiative including the reduction of the mycotoxin aflatoxin in Africa. The indirect effects include loss of crop yield or amount, loss of animal productivity and loss of export markets. Crop losses due to mycotoxin contamination occur in parts of Canada and the United States every year. Preventing these from entering the food and feed system requires a systematic effort from farmers, country elevators, millers and food processers.
The discussions helped to share information and will result in a report on research directions.
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