SFA Recalls Ground Peanut Product Due To High Levels Of Cancer-Causing Aflatoxins

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The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has directed food manufacturer Sing Long Foodstuff Trading to recall all batches of its Ground Peanut Powder with Sugar product, which was found to contain high levels of aflatoxins.

In a news release, SFA said that the level of aflatoxins detected in the product exceeded the maximum limits stated in the Singapore Food Regulations. Aflatoxins can occur in foods such as groundnuts as a result of fungal contamination before and after harvest. They are known to be genotoxic, which means they can damage the genetic information within a cell, resulting in mutations or cancer. They are also known to be carcinogenic, which means they have the potential to cause cancer.

A Modern-Day Food Obsession

The agency said that it detected the presence of the aflatoxins during a routine sampling of the product and that the recall is ongoing. Those who have purchased the implicated product are advised not to consume it. Consumers may also contact their point of purchase for inquiries, the agency added. SFA said: 

“While occasional ingestion of food contaminated with aflatoxins is not expected to cause an appreciable health risk, those who have consumed the implicated product and have concerns about their health should seek medical advice.” 

Peanut Butter is something of a modern-day food obsession. Vegans, body-builders, and everyone in between seem transfixed by this high-protein spread. Still, in recent years peanut butter has come under fire in certain corners of the Internet for aflatoxin. Aflatoxins are poisonous, cancer-causing agents produced by molds that grow in soil and other decaying hay, grains, and vegetation that are brought to decompose due to improper storage. 

According to the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, “the occurrence of aflatoxins is influenced by certain environmental factors; hence the extent of contamination will vary with geographic location, agricultural and agronomic practices, and the susceptibility of commodities to fungal invasion during pre-harvest, storage, and/or processing periods. Aflatoxins have received greater attention than any other mycotoxins because of their demonstrated potent carcinogenic effect in susceptible laboratory animals and their acute toxicological effects in humans.”

Exposed To Contaminated Feed

According to the University of California Berkeley Wellness Center, peanuts sold inside the U.S. are not considered a problem, but you should still store them in a cool, dry place. While the National Cancer Institute claims that exposure to aflatoxins “is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer” as well inflammation of the heart, increased food sensitivities, and autoimmune reactions, preliminary research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that there is a way to inhibit aflatoxin’s effects through a chlorophyll compound in green vegetables, such as spinach.

By and large, aflatoxin contamination tends to affect people who live in the developing world, in nations where corn and peanuts are staple crops. Aflatoxins enter the human body most commonly through contaminated plant products or meat and dairy products from animals exposed to contaminated feed. Workers who inhale dust generated by moving or handling contaminated crops are also at risk. The highest-risk crops are corn, peanuts, and cottonseed (though aflatoxins are occasionally found in milk, cheese, almond figs, spices, eggs, and meat products).

Establishing Action Levels

Due to increased consumer awareness and demand for transparency, the industry has enforced stricter regulations over the years, just as the wellness world has suggested consuming certain foods and supplements in order to mitigate the effects. Dr. Axe also suggests trying to counteract potential exposure by taking chlorophyll, milk thistle, dandelion root, or marshmallow root in supplement form for those who eat many corn and peanuts.

A better, less invasive approach is only to buy nut kinds of butter from mass manufacturers.  This sad, we know, because we prefer to purchase small-batch, local products when we can. Because more prominent peanut butter manufacturers are highly regulated, the likelihood of a contaminated peanut crop making into the final product is less likely. The FDA has established specific guidelines on acceptable levels of aflatoxins in human food and animal feed by showing action levels that allow for the removal of violative lots from commerce.

Avoid Any Unwanted Exposure

Aflatoxin exposure from peanuts can be controlled and reduced by visually checking nuts for moldy-looking, discolored, or shriveled specimens, which should be discarded (this isn’t like potato chips where the dark ones taste better; any discoloration could be a sign of harmful mold). 

In general, only buying nuts and nut kinds of butter produced (and thus regulated) in the United States is your best bet to avoid any unwanted exposure. According to the University of California Berkeley Wellness Center, peanuts sold inside the U.S. are not considered a problem, but you should still take care to store them in a cool, dry place; all the more reason to eat peanut butter right out of the fridge.

People can be exposed to aflatoxins by eating contaminated plant products (such as peanuts) or consuming meat or dairy products from animals that ate contaminated feed. Farmers and other agricultural workers may be exposed by inhaling dust generated during the handling and processing of contaminated crops and meals.

How can aflatoxin exposure be reduced?

You can reduce your aflatoxin exposure by buying only major commercial brands of nuts and nut kinds of butter and discarding nuts that look moldy, discolored, or shriveled. To help minimize risk, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests foods that may contain aflatoxins, such as peanuts and peanut butter. No outbreak of human illness caused by aflatoxins has been reported in the United States, but such outbreaks have occurred in some developing countries.

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