Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Possible Toxins Found in Flour and Starch Products

List of Molds That Can Be Found in Foods
Gulf Coast Mold Prevention, Inc. (2006). List of Common Molds. Retrieved July 21, 2007 from

(From the list of moulds, here are some selected ones to focus on. Research has been conducted to ensure that these are common molds which are commonly found in flour and strach products, as produced by the company in the problem statement. The research below focuses on the toxins which are produced from the possible moulds found.)

Ergot is a toxin caused by Claviceps purpurea. The disease causes ergotism in livestock if hays or grains are infected. Ergot occurs every year on cereals and grasses, and is more prevalent in rye and triticale. The most common sign of ergot is the dark purple to black sclerotia found replacing the grain in the heads of cereals and grasses just prior to harvest. The ergot disease occurs abundantly during wet seasons. The wet weather and wet soils favor germination of the ergot bodies.

(This research shows that grains which can be used to produce flour like cereals and rye can have the toxins of ergot present in them. If contaminated crops are used, this would be a toxin that is commonly found in the end product of flour.)

Ergot is toxic to animals, the most susceptible being cattle. Two well known forms of ergotism exist in animals, an acute form characterized by convulsions, and a chronic form characterized by agalactia and lack of mammary gland development, prolonged gestations, and early foal deaths in mares fed heavily contaminated feed. Symptoms of convulsive ergotism include heyperexcitability, belligerence, ataxia or staggering, lying down, convulsions and backward arches of the back. Symptoms of gangrenous ergotism involve the extremities of the animal including the nose ears tails and limbs. For humans consumption of food contaminated with Ergot can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations, and may lead to gangrene in serious cases. As recently as 1951 there was an outbreak of the disease in s small town in France. People who bought fresh bread from a local bakery started experiencing burning sensations in their limbs, began to hallucinate. Many other outbreaks were reported, and the chemical said to cause the hallucinations is actually LSD. Although Ergot can cause many problems, it has both medical and recreational uses for many.

(Freshly- produced bread could be contaminated and harmful to human health if the flour contaminated with ergot is used and this relates to the problem statement.)

Ergot is a disease of rye caused by the fungus Claviceps purpurea, which infects the flowers and produces hard mycelial masses (ergots) in place of the grains. The ergots contain numerous alkaloids, and if they are ground along with healthy grain the resulting flour and baked breads can cause a condition known as ergotism; historical records of epidemics indicate that the symptoms followed two different patterns.

(Rye can also be used to produce flour and starch products. Research shows that any baked products baked with the contaminated flour can also be still infected with this toxin despite being baked at high temperatures.)

Mycotoxins are mainly produced by fungi growing in contaminated foods; the compounds most commonly develop during storage and remain within the food after processing and cooking.

If eaten by humans or livestock, these toxins can have profound chronic and acute effects; mycotoxins are also highly carcinogenic. An example is a group of toxins called aflatoxins produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus. Foods contaminated with this fungus have killed fowl and other animals, and humans have also died from eating contaminated corn (e.g., in 1974 in India) It is also possible that high rates of liver cancer among some groups of people in Asia and Africa are associated with consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated foods. More than 200 mycotoxins have been identified from 150 species of fungi; conditions that lead to food spoilage, such as warm temperatures, are important environmental triggers in some species for the production of toxins.

(Aflatoxins which is caused by the Aspergillus microbes can be found in crops such as corn so it is a possible microbe found in corn. Corn is a common crop used to produce flour and the above research also shows that if contaminated crops are used for production of e.g. flour, the toxins can still be present in the end product like baked breads after processing and cooking.)

Distributed in soils and plants worldwide, Fusarium can invade corn and barley and produce toxins at lower temperatures than many fungi. Fusarium has affected water-damaged carpets, and can cause infections in immunocompromised individuals. Frequently involved in eye, skin and nail infections, and is reported to be allergenic.

(I have not done much research much on Fusarium yet. But it’s a mould commonly found in grains like barley and corn. Corn again, here, can be used to produce flour and thus, it’s a microbe that can be included in the report, as it relates to the problem statement as well. The toxin produced is the “trichothecene” toxin.)

However, I have found a website that elaborates more on trichothecene mycotoxins:

Levetin & McMahon. (2003). Fungi and Human Health: Drugs, Poisons, Pathogens, Allergies. Retrieved July 21, 2007 from,%20etc/Fungi%20V.pdf


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