FDA warns public on peanuts bearing cancer causing fungus
MANILA, Philippines — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the public against peanut products, including those sold by ambulant and street vendors, after receiving reports about those found to be laden with cancer-causing fungal contaminant.
In an advisory, FDA acting director general Kenneth Hartigan Go said they have tested some pre-packed peanuts positive for Aflatoxin B1, a by-product of molds.
Aflatoxin B1 is said to be one of the most naturally occurring carcinogenic mycotoxins produced by certain species of fungi.
“The FDA laboratory has tested several pre-packaged peanuts, both imported and locally manufactured, that contained levels of Aflatoxin B1 beyond the acceptable limit of 20 ppb (ug/kg),” Go said.
Go said the peanuts (adobo or nilaga) sold by ambulant and street vendors, could contain aflatoxin beyond the allowable limits.
According to him, aflatoxin (Aspergillus flavus) is also known as “anti-nutritional” or “anti-nutrient” toxin.
“Aflatoxin binds proteins, vitamins, and minerals so that the body cannot absorb the nutrients. In children, aflatoxin can stunt growth and can lead to kwashiorkor, a debilitating disease of nutritional deficiency in children. If ingested over a prolonged period of time in large doses, the poison can also inhibit the immune system,” Go said.
He added that the mutations of cell DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) due to prolonged exposure to aflatoxin would increase the risk of developing cancer cells.
Peanuts are agricultural crops that are dried after harvesting. If not properly dried, molds can grow on the raw peanuts easily, causing them to rot. As the molds feed on the grain, they produce waste products known as mycotoxins.
The FDA did not disclose the brands of the pre-packed peanuts that they found laden with aflatoxin, as of Thursday, saying that an investigation on the possible source of the contamination has been ongoing.
Go said that as of Thursday, they were still in the process of probing on whether the contamination occurred in the pre-packing process or from raw ingredients.
“Although aflatoxin makes peanuts taste bitter, some unscrupulous food processors or peanut vendors simply mix these bad peanuts with the good ones rather than throw them out,” he said, stressing that mixing contaminated ingredients with unadulterated ones has been prohibited by the FDA Act of 2009, and the Consumer Act of the Philippines.
“All food manufacturers are hereby warned against processing aflatoxin-contaminated or adulterated raw ingredients into finished products,” Go added.
“All consumers are strongly advised to buy only FDA-registered prepackaged products,” he said.