Carcinogen found in packed peanuts
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning the public against peanut products, including those sold by street vendors, after samples were found with a cancer-causing fungal contaminant.
In an advisory, FDA Acting Director General Kenneth Hartigan Go said the agency had tested some brands of prepackaged peanuts and found them positive for Aflatoxin B1, a naturally occurring carcinogenic mycotoxin produced by certain species of fungi.
The tested products, both imported and locally manufactured, contained levels of Aflatoxin B1 “beyond the acceptable limit of 20 parts per billion,” according to Go.
There is also a possibility that peanuts usually sold boiled or adobo-style by street vendors contain harmful levels of aflatoxin, especially if the peanuts were not properly dried after being harvested and had developed molds, he added.
The FDA did not disclose the tested brands of prepacked peanuts, saying it was still tracing the source of the contamination and whether it occurred in the packing process or started from the 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, noting the practice is prohibited under 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. “Consumers are strongly advised to buy only FDA-registered prepackaged products.”
Prolonged exposure to aflatoxin increases the risk of developing cancer cells, the official said.
“(It also) 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,” he added.
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