Women threshing sorghum in Angonia province, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

There are too many issues with using lactic acid bacteria for aflatoxin binding for the practice to be safely promoted, according to a newly published review. The review adds that using aflatoxin binders in human food might even worsen food safety in the longer term.

“Use of binding agents in foods contradicts all the existing principles and regulations set to ensure food safety. If such a method is promoted, the efforts to combat the aflatoxin problem at farm level and throughout the value chain, to eliminate and reduce the contaminants, could be compromised,” the study says.

Aflatoxins continue to be a food safety problem globally, especially in developing regions. A significant amount of effort and resources have been invested to control aflatoxins. However, these efforts have not substantially decreased the prevalence nor the dietary exposure to aflatoxins in developing countries. 

One approach to aflatoxin control is the use of binding agents in foods, and lactic acid bacteria have been studied extensively for this purpose. However, when assessing the results comprehensively and reviewing the practicality and ethics of use, risks are evident and concerns arise. 

The study notes that aflatoxin binding research has approached the issue from a one-component ‘silver bullet’ solution instead of focusing on a comprehensive approach to aflatoxin control that considers good agricultural practices at the farm level and good manufacturing practices during production. 

Promoting increased diversity of diets, particularly of staple crops, may contribute towards reduced exposure to aflatoxins. Additionally, the role of food safety authorities needs to be strengthened to safeguard food quality in both formal and informal markets.

Citation

Ahlberg, S., Randolph, D., Okoth, S. and Lindahl, J. 2019. Aflatoxin binders in foods for human consumption—Can this be promoted safely and ethically? Toxins 11(7): 410.