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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Mycotoxins of Growing Interest: Fumonisins

Authors
item Visconti, A - ITALY
item Marasas, W - SOUTH AFRICA
item Miller, J - CANADA
item Riley, Ronald

Submitted to: Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: December 20, 1998
Publication Date: March 1, 1999

Interpretive Summary: Fumonisins (FBs) are toxic chemicals occurring worldwide in corn. Eight different FBs have been characterized from cultures of the fungus Fusarium moniliforme. Only FB1 and, to a lesser extent, FB2 and FB3 are frequently found as natural contaminants of foods and feeds. Methods are available for determining FBs in corn. The causal role of FB1 in a brain disease of horses and a lung disease of pigs has been established. FB1 causes cholesterol to increase in blood, immunological alterations, and kidney toxicity in several animal species but is toxic to liver in all animal species tested to date. The liver carcinogenicity of FB1 in the rat remains unconfirmed. FB1 does not interact directly with the genetic material, DNA, but does block the formation of a unique class of lipids called sphingolipids. Research is ongoing to obtain FB-free genetically modified corn plants. FBs are mostly stable during food processing. Detoxification processes have been tested for reducing FB in contaminated corn. Epidemiological evidence has suggested a link between dietary FB exposure and human esophageal cancer in some locations. Switzerland is the only country which has set a regulatory limit for FBs in corn based foods, and recommended limits are available for feeds in the USA. Human exposure estimates vary considerably according to source and extent of corn in the diet. Care must be taken in the establishment of safe limits for human dietary exposure to consider human populations consuming high amounts of corn. Proceedings of 3rd Joint FAO/WHO/UNEP International Conference on Mycotoxins, Tunis, Tunisia, March 3-6, 1999.

Technical Abstract: Fumonisins (FBs) are mycotoxins occurring worldwide in maize. Eight FB analogues have been characterized from fungal cultures of Fusarium moniliforme or F. proliferatum. Only FB1 and, to a lesser extent, FB2 and FB3 are frequently found as natural contaminants of foods and feeds. Methods are available for determining FBs in maize. The causal role of FB1 in equine leukoencephalomalacia and porcine pulmonary edema has been established. FB1 causes hypercholesteremia, immunological alterations, and renal toxicity in several animal species but is hepatotoxic in all animal species tested to date. The liver carcinogenicity of FB1 in the rat remains unconfirmed. FB1 is neither metagenic nor genotoxic but is a potent inhibitor of de novo sphingolipid metabolism and is currently widely used to study the role of sphingolipids in cellular regulation. Research is ongoing to obtain FB-free genetically modified maize plants. FBs are mostly stable during food processing. Several detoxification processes have been tested for reducing FB in contaminated maize. Available epidemiological evidence has suggested a link between dietary FB exposure and human esophageal cancer in some locations. Switzerland is the only country which has set a regulatory limit for FBs in maize based foods, and recommended limits are available for feeds in the USA. Human exposure estimates vary considerably according to source and extent of maize in the diet. Care must be taken in the establishment of safe limits for human dietary exposure to consider human populations consuming high amounts of maize.

Last Modified: 10/20/2014
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