Toxigenic fungi and mycotoxins
The contamination of food and feed with mycotoxins is a significant source of food-borne illnesses. Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by certain fungi belonging predominantly to the Aspergillus, Penicillium and Fusarium genera, which can cause a variety of adverse effects to both humans and animals, ranging from allergic responses to death. While Aspergillus and Penicillium strains are generally found as contaminants in food during drying and storage, Fusarium spp. are typically field contaminants and their production of mycotoxins is limited to a few plant products, and is mainly associated with cereal crops. The most important Aspergillus mycotoxins, which frequently occur at biologically significant concentrations in various food commodities, are aflatoxins, ochratoxin A (OTA), citrinin, cyclopiazonic acid, penicillic acid and sterigmatocystin. Some of these mycotoxins (OTA, citrinin, cyclopiazonic acid, penicillic acid) can also be produced by Penicillium species. Other potent Penicillium mycotoxins which have to date been poorly studied include patulin, roquefortine C, rubratoxins and PR toxin. The main mycotoxins produced by Fusarium species and which are present in cereal grains include trichothecenes (T-2 toxin, HT-2 toxin, deoxynivalenol, nivalenol), fumonisins, zearalenone and moniliformin. Fusarium species are also destructive plant pathogens and are responsible for diseases in crops such as ear rot which can result in significant losses in both crop yield and quality. This paper will focus on an update of our current knowledge on the mycotoxigenic fungi (Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium) which are most commonly found as food contaminants and on the mycotoxins they produce. The review will focus on the toxicity, the sources in foods and the associated human health risks. © 2011 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.