Nearly half of the peanut butter products on the market are contaminated with aflatoxin, a mycotoxin known to cause liver disease and cancer, the Consumers’ Foundation said yesterday, as it urged consumers not to store such products in warm, humid environments.
Among the 20 brands of peanut butter products purchased in April by the foundation from online stores, hypermarkets, supermarkets and bakeries in the Greater Taipei area, test showed that 10 contained aflatoxin in amounts ranging from 0.2 parts per billion (ppb) to 9.1ppb.
“Although none of the tested products contained aflatoxin exceeding the statutory limit of 15ppb stipulated in the Sanitation Standard for the Tolerance of Mycotoxins in Foods (食品中真菌毒素限量標準), long-term consumption of the naturally occurring mycotoxin could still have a negative effect on health,” Ling Yong-chien (凌永健), a chemistry professor at National Tsing Hua University and a member of the foundation’s Inspection Committee, told a press conference in Taipei.
Production of aflatoxin is optimal at 28°C to 30°C and at 95 percent relative humidity, and a temperature of at least 280°C is needed to destroy the mycotoxin, Ling said.
“It is vital that consumers keep foods made from peanuts and other commodities that could be affected by aflatoxin, such as corn, nuts, raw milk and milk powders, properly sealed and refrigerated to lower their risk of accidentally ingesting mycotoxin,” Ling said.
The majority of the contaminated products were imported, mainly from India and Singapore, while two were manufactured locally, the foundation said.
A report in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis — the official English-language peer-reviewed publication of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — in September last year said that peanut butter had the highest aflatoxin-positive incidence of peanut products sold in Taiwan between 1997 and 2011.
An inspection of 1,827 commercial peanut products collected by the FDA nationwide, found that of the 142 peanut butter products tested, 75 (52.8 percent) contained aflatoxin, the report said. Peanut flour had a contamination rate of 44.1 percent, it said.