GCU professor leads UN expert group to assess toxins in food

13 May 2016

Kofi Aidoo, Professor of Food Safety and Food Microbiology at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), is to lead a group of global experts providing independent advice to the United Nations (UN) on food contaminants that could cause cancer.

The group, which forms part of the UN Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), will collate worldwide data from governments and research establishments on sterigmatocystin, a naturally occurring toxin which can be found in food including cereals, cheeses, spices and nuts. Under certain conditions, the fungus present in the food can develop to produce aflatoxin, a known carcinogen. Professor Aidoo, who is one of only two UK experts on the committee, will also be part of a group reviewing data on fumonisins, other fungal toxins that can be found in grain.

The collated data – on these and other fungal toxins – will be presented at a meeting of JECFA at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome in November 2016.

Professor Aidoo said: “The UN is very concerned about these chemicals and wants to know how potent they are as cancer agents and the levels at which they are likely to cause an ill effect. Gathering all known data on the prevalence of these toxins in food and the conditions required for them to be produced will enable the FAO to work with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to look at the effects they have on people and set safe standards worldwide.”

Professor Aidoo has served on JECFA, an international committee of scientific experts administered jointly by the FAO and WHO, since 2007. In addition to evaluating the safety of food additives, the committee’s remit extends to contaminants and naturally occurring toxicants.

The current President of the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland, Professor Aidoo is a Fellow of both the Institute of Food Science and Technology and the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health.