Fungal or mold growth in or on foods and feed can result in the production of many different types of toxic biochemicals. As a group, these toxic substances are commonly called mycotoxins. The term aflatoxins refers to a particular group of mycotoxins produced by some species of the genus Aspergillus. There are four major aflatoxins named B1, B2, G1, G2 plus two additional metabolic products known as M1 and M2 that are of significance as direct contaminants of foods and feeds.
Fungal (or mold) growth and aflatoxin contamination are the consequence of interactions among the fungi, the host (foods or feeds) and the environment. On a standing crop, aflatoxin contamination of peanuts and corn is favored by high temperatures, prolonged drought conditions and high insect activity, while postharvest production of aflatoxins on corn and peanuts is favored by higher water content, warm temperatures and high humidity. Forages are generally not analyzed for aflatoxins but in some situations (e.g., corn or sorghum silage that is at risk) this analysis may be warranted.
The presence of aflatoxins in feeds, forages and foods is an important anti-quality factor and is associated with various diseases in livestock, domestic animals and humans that are broadly termed aflatoxicosis. Aflatoxicosis is primarily a hepatic (liver) disease. Liver damage, decreased reproductive performance, reduced milk or egg production, embryonic death, teratogenicity (birth defects), tumors and suppressed immune system function are caused by aflatoxins even when low levels are consumed.« Back to Glossary Index