50 per cent of peanut butter samples contaminated with aflatoxin, says Taiwan agency

PHOTO: 50 per cent of peanut butter samples contaminated with aflatoxin, says Taiwan agency

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Consumers' Foundation (CF) announced yesterday that 50 per cent of sampled peanut butter was found to contain aflatoxin.

The CF said, however, that the amount of aflatoxin discovered in the test samples did not exceed the 15 parts per billion (ppb) limit.

The CF reminded consumers that long-term consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated food can be extremely hazardous to one's health. The foundation suggested freezing food items immediately upon opening the packaging.

Peanut butter is one of the most popular peanut-based products that consumers purchase aside from peanut powder and candy, so the CF will specifically conduct a test of aflatoxin levels in peanut butter for the sake of public health.

In April 2014, the CF collected 20 different peanut butter samples from discount stores, supermarkets, welfare centers, organic stores, bread stores, online stores etc. in Northern Taiwan.

The CF said there were 10 items found to contain aflatoxin out of the 20 samples, but that none exceeded the limit on "mycotoxins in food."

Even though the 10 food items that were tested for aflatoxin did not exceed 15 ppb, the substance can still be harmful to people if they are long-term consumers of the products, according to the CF.

The CF suggests that consumers pay special attention to the dates of manufacture listed on food items, and either freeze or consume the products as soon as possible.

FDA Test

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the "commercially available food mycotoxins content monitoring plan" in cooperation with the national, county and city health bureaus in the last six months of 2013.

Based on the plan, rice, peanuts, nuts and spices are items that are easily contaminated with aflatoxin, which would be hard to remove through regular cooking. According to the "mycotoxins in food limits" provision of the "Food and Drug Consumer Knowledge" programme, research shows aflatoxin is strongly related to liver diseases and liver cancer, and that the level of aflatoxin in peanut products should only be 15 ppb.

In a previous round of testing for aflatoxin in food products, the FDA focused on 54 peanut products, six nut products, nine dried fruit products and 17 rice products, with test results showing that one peanut item's aflatoxin content did not meet the FDA's requirements.

Subsequently, the FDA also detected a excessive amount of aflatoxin in certain peanuts, peanut powder, seaweed peanut candy and a bag of peanut candy imported from Vietnam in the first few months of 2014.