Hyderabad: What do you do when you find cereals with a green growth? Do you wash and soak and and use them? These dark, green coloured kernels in cereals and spices are found to be one of the sources of toxins which not only contaminate food but also affect the liver and are a cause of cancer.
The green mould or fungus grows on grain and excretes toxins in the cereals. They are called mycotoxins in technical terms and are now becoming a cause of concern due to the increasing burden of liver disease globally.
The National Institute of Nutrition is undertaking research on mycotoxins in food and the food toxicity that it causes in the body along with the University of Aberdeen to understand its role in the cycle of growing and processing food. The contamination of mycotoxins is found highest in cereals, millets, groundnuts and spices. Secondary contamination is found in unrefined groundnut oil and the cake prepared from fodder given to poultry and dairy animals.
In the food chain process from growing, harvesting, transporting, distributing and finally processing, food goes through a huge channel and there could be contamination at any stage.
Dr S. Vasanthi, scientist at NIN’s food safety division, said, “Mycotoxins cannot be removed by normal cooking. The temperatures required to cook it will make the food inedible. Hence we have to first work on ways to understand how it can be prevented.”
Scientists state that people must be aware and not wash these cereals and cook them, thinking that the toxins will be destroyed. Cereals which are black, green or sticky in nature must be discarded and not used for cooking at all.
The major household process noted in Indian homes is to clean, wash and soak them, expecting the toxins to be washed away. But in mycotoxins, this is not the case as the toxin is inside the grain.
Dr Ramesh V. Bhat, international food safety expert, explained, “The alarm bells on mycotoxins are due to the increasing number of cases of liver problems in Africa and China.”...