Food Safety Focus (21st Issue, April 2008) – Food Incident Highlight

Aflatoxins in Peanut Products

In March 2008, the Bureau of Food and Drug Analysis in Taiwan released surveillance results on peanut products (including peanut candies, ground peanuts and grains of peanut). Some samples of which were found to contain excessive amounts of aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins are a group of toxic compounds produced by some moulds of the Aspergillus species under favourable conditions of temperature and humidity. Aflatoxins are more likely to be found in peanuts, tree nuts, corn, dried figs, cereals and their products. They are colourless, tasteless and odourless, and are stable at high temperatures. Aflatoxins are classified as carcinogens to humans, and are associated with liver cancer. Severe acute cases may lead to liver damage or even death.

Members of the food trade should source ingredients and products of good quality. They should store food in cool and dry environment, and practise stock rotation on a "first-in-first-out" basis. Members of the public should purchase food from reliable shops, keep foods in dry and cool place without direct sunlight, consume products before the "best before" date and discard any food that looks mouldy or damaged.

Illustration: Peanut candy