Food & Beverage

Research Explores Use of Aflatoxins for Potential Food Application

Research Explores Use of Aflatoxins for Potential Food Application

Resaerchers from University of São Paulo highlighted recent data on the in vitro antifungal activity of essential oils and aqueous extracts from plants

Aflatoxins are secondary metabolites that are produced by fungi of the genus Aspergillus. This fungi occurs naturally in cereals such as corn, beans, and rice. It majorly produces Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), which has the highest toxicity. The metabolite mainly targets the liver and exhibits teratogenic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic effects in humans and several animal models. Aflatoxins are heat-stable compounds and therefore, preventive management of food contamination is essential during the production, especially in pre- and post-harvest processes. However, to eliminate the aflatoxin from contaminated foodstuffs, the development of new, reliable techniques is a very important task for the food industry. Therefore, considerable experimental research has demonstrated that essential oils and aqueous plant extracts hinder the fungal development and/or the biosynthesis of aflatoxins. This in turns indicates the potential of essential oils and aqueous plant extracts for their use in food products.

Now, a team of researchers from Department of Food Engineering, School of Animal Science and Food Engineering from University of São Paulo summarized the experimental studies conducted with essential oils and aqueous plant extracts. The findings of this research were published in The Open Food Science Journal on October 30, 2018. The team discussed the prospects for using essential oils and aqueous plant extracts in food products to prevent Aspergillus growth or aflatoxin production. These compounds can find application particularly in stored cereals and their manufactured products.

According to the researchers, in the initial stage, the procedures for preparation of plant extracts and/or essential oils need standardization. Moreover, the team stated that further studies are required to identify the main active compounds of plant extracts along with understanding their mechanisms of action. The safety levels for the use of these compounds are also needed to be determined by the food industry. The researchers starched the importance of investigating some practical aspects of using essential oils and aqueous plant extracts in food products. The major aspects include potential effects of these compounds on sensory characteristics of foods and their shelf life for the maintenance of antifungal properties under various environmental conditions.