Professor Aidoo provides evidence on cancer-causing food contaminants

25 November 2016

Professor Aidoo provides evidence on cancer-causing food contaminants

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researchers have provided new evidence on the risks of food contaminants that could cause cancer to the joint UN Food and Agriculture Organisation / World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

The international scientific expert advisory board met last week (November 18) in Rome to discuss food contaminants - specifically ‘mycotoxins’ (fungal toxins) found in food – and how international policies should implement maximum safe levels of the toxins.

GCU’s Professor Kofi Aidoo led a group collating 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, and fumonisins, fungal toxins that can be found in grain.

The toxicological evaluation of these carcinogenic compounds was presented to the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) of the UN, which will now adopt the findings and disseminate the evidence report to international stakeholders.

The report details the risks of exposure of the compound to humans, the concentration of the toxin and rate at which it is likely to accumulate and cause cancer to humans, and the maximum permissible level in foods.

Over 250 mycotoxins have been documented but fewer than ten are currently listed as important by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

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 setting of safe standards worldwide.”

 

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