Climate change could lead to “killer cornflakes” with the cereal carrying the most potent liver toxin ever recorded, an environmental health conference has been told, according to an AAP report.
The effects of the toxins, known as mycotoxins, have been known since the Middle Ages, when rye bread contaminated with ergot fungus was a staple part of the European diet, Central Queensland University (CQU) environmental health researcher Lisa Bricknell said at the 10th World Congress on Environmental Health in Brisbane.
Mycotoxins can appear in the food chain as a result of the fungal infection of crops in the field or in storage, either by being eaten directly by humans, or by being used as livestock feed.
The most important group of mycotoxins in Australian maize is aflatoxins.
They can spread when temperature and moisture conditions are right and could affect crops including maize (corn) and peanuts and in some milk, dried milk products and some spices, Bricknell explained.
Bricknell said that there had been outbreaks of high levels of aflatoxins in Australian crops in recent years and global warming was providing a new threat to food safety, with temperatures expected to rise in inland areas of the eastern states while rainfall was tipped to fall. Rainfall is correlated with aflatoxin contamination.
Grain-growing areas of Australia, such as Queensland’s Burnett region, could become unviable, and Australia may have to import more maize and maize-based food products to meet demand.
“While killer cornflakes may not precisely be around the corner, we do have potential for increasing aflatoxin exposure.
“We need to investigate risk management for maize production and we need to undertake careful monitoring of food products coming into our country.”
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