Feb 17, 2019 | Updated: 07:41 AM EST

Sunflower Seeds Source Of Toxic Mold, Could Lead To Liver Cancer

Apr 25, 2017 06:11 AM EDT


A recent study shows that sunflower seeds contain a toxin produced by molds that could increase health risk especially to people living in low-income countries. Health risks include liver cancer that could eventually lead to death.

Researchers from Michigan State University has concluded that sunflower seeds are frequently contaminated with a toxin called aflatoxin. This is a toxin produced by Aspergillus molds that also infects corn, peanuts, pistachios, and almonds, according to the current issue of PLoS OneThe study also found out that chronic exposure to aflatoxin leads to 25,000 to 155,000 deaths worldwide and the numbers are just only from corn and peanuts.

Gale Strasburg, the study's coauthor, said that they focused their study on sunflower seeds and its products so that they could help reduce the growing number of liver disease in low-income areas like in Tanzania, the place where they conducted their study. Aflatoxin is also considered as a potent liver carcinogen.

Sunflower seeds are usually grown in farms in Tanzania by smallholder farmers as their livestock. These seeds are then sold to local millers who press the seeds for oil and sell it to consumers for cooking. These sunflower seeds could be infected by Aspergillus flavor or Aspergillus parasiticus molds that produce aflatoxins.

"These high aflatoxin levels, in a commodity frequently consumed by the Tanzanian population, indicate that local authorities must implement interventions to prevent and control aflatoxin contamination along the sunflower commodity value chain, to enhance food and feed safety in Tanzania," Strasburg told MSU Today. He also said that there needs to be a follow-up research in order to determine the intake rates of sunflower see products among humans and animals.

Lead author of the study Juma Mmongoyo, a former MSU food science doctoral student, said that the aflatoxins found on the most sunflower seeds sample in Tanzania have aflatoxins. Nearly 60 percent of the sample were contaminated with aflatoxins.

Other MSU scientists who contributed to this research are John Linz, Muraleedharan Nair and Robert Tempelman. Jovin Mugula of the Sokoine University of Agriculture also contributed to the research.

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