This review focused on the worldwide contamination of foods and feeds with mycotoxins as a significant problem. Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites of molds that have adverse effects on humans, animals, and crops that result in illnesses and economic losses. Aflatoxins, ochratoxins, trichothecenes, zearelenone, fumonisins, tremorgenic toxins, and ergot alkaloids are the mycotoxins of greatest agro-economic importance. Factors influencing the presence of mycotoxins in foods or feeds include environmental conditions related to storage that can be controlled. Other extrinsic factors such as climate or intrinsic factors such as fungal strain specificity, strain variation, and instability of toxigenic properties are more difficult to control. The economic impact of mycotoxins include loss of human and animal life, increased health care and veterinary care costs, reduced livestock production, disposal of contaminated foods and feeds, and investment in research and applications to reduce severity of the mycotoxin problem. Although efforts have continued internationally to set guidelines to control mycotoxins, practical measures have not been adequately implemented.
Key words: Fungi, mycotoxins, aflatoxins, contamination, relative humidity, safe moisture content.
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