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Carcinogen Aflatoxin detected in FSSAI milk survey samples

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    30th Oct, 2019

Traces of Aflatoxin M1 (AFM1), a deadly carcinogen, were found in some of the milk samples tested as part of a national survey by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

Context

Traces of Aflatoxin M1 (AFM1), a deadly carcinogen, were found in some of the milk samples tested as part of a national survey by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

About

  • Aflatoxins are toxins produced by certain fungi which are generally found in agricultural crops like maize, peanuts, cotton seed and others. They are carcinogenic in nature, which means they can cause cancer.
  • The highest rates of aflatoxin contamination were found in Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Highlights of the report

  • The carcinogen was found to be more prevalent in processed rather than raw milk.
  • Consumption of food containing aflatoxin concentrations of one milligram/kilogram or higher has been suspected to cause aflatoxicosis, the prognosis of which consists of acute liver failure, jaundice, lethargy and nausea, eventually leading to death, according to a World Health Organization (WHO)
  • According to FSSAI standards, the permissible limit of aflatoxins in milk is 0.5 µg/kg.
  • The exposure to AFM1 from milk is 46 nanogram per kilogram (ng/day) on average, but children bear higher exposure of 3.5 ng/kg bodyweight per day (bw/day) compared to adults, at 0.8 ng/kg bw/day. This causes stunting among children.
  • Maltodextrin, a food additive, was also found. Although it is not lethal, its presence increases the levels of fat and Solids-not-Fat (SNF). Maltodextrin and Sugar were mainly found in processed milk.

Regulatory mechanism to address this issue

  • The problem is mainly associated with commercial farmers who store feed.
  • The substance (aflatoxin) is naturally produced by certain types of moulds that grow in the stored feed.
  • While the farmers need to be trained in good storage practices, plant owners cannot just disown these small and medium dairy farmers who they source their supplies from. They will have to help in creating a safe ecosystem.
  • Also, authorities should create a feed regulatory mechanism that will help change the situation in due course of time.
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