Study of Food Contamination

Universidad Nacional de Rosario - Facultad de Ciencias Bioquímicas y Farmacéuticas

December 01, 2014 | 4 ′ 56 ′′


Study of Food Contamination


A research project points to obtain higher quality food and to raise awareness about the fungi which affect grains in the storage stage. The professional team assesses the current grains post-harvest management conditions and their effects on the development of fungi and production of toxins" data-toggle = "tooltip" title = "Toxin produced by a fungi kingdom organism which includes mushrooms, mildew and yeasts.">mycotoxins.

Researchers from the Universidad Nacional de Rosario (UNR) analyze the quality of food regarding contamination. “The fungi which affect grains in the stage of storage are those which grow with minimum values of water activity. There exist nearly 80 thousand species of fungi”, said to Argentina Investiga the researcher Lucía Bulacio.

The research project is developed in the Facultad de Ciencias Bioquímicas y Farmacéuticas of the UNR by a team of teachers-researchers who decided to work on this topic, on the one hand in face of the need to find the origin of certain diseases in animals fed with feed mill and on the other through the observation that during rainy seasons cereals and oil products were contaminated. “Our work was motivated by knowing the risk we were exposed to due to the high percentage of this kind of food”, analyzed the researcher.

“We currently know that the storage of grains is done in vertical silos and in silo bags, as the capacity of the former is usually not enough for the magnitude of current harvests”, stated Bulacio. According to the researcher, food can be contaminated at any time and that contamination can reach dairy products as well as cereals and animals feed mill, among others. “As we are talking about fungi, if we have a rainy year we cannot dry the grains forever and they will be contaminated because they remain humid”, she explained. And added: “Storage is more complicated, silo bags can break and favor the grains’ contamination”.

However, as she said, technologies can be used for storage and processing in order to minimize contamination. “It is fundamental not to use contaminated grains for food, people or animals”, ensured the researcher.

The effects of this contamination in the human body are many times accumulative and depend on the amount of toxins ingested. They can cause intoxication, some toxins are carcinogenic with kidney, liver or immunosuppressive toxicity, that is, they decrease the body defenses. “The consumption of products with high concentration of toxics can cause acute intoxication, depending on the effects of the doses and time, as if exposure goes on the effect can be chronic”, added Bulacio.

The study was carried out through the isolation of fungi by 60 samples of grains stored in traditional vertical silos and 30 in silo bags. In all the cases, the samples were placed in polyethylene bags, labeled and refrigerated (2-8º C) until the tests were carried out.

“From the results obtained it can be observed that fungi proliferate in silo bags more than in traditional silos. The conservation of grains in plastic bags has been and is an important alternative for agriculture, as it offers a simple, practical and cheap tool, but the presence of mycotoxins has to be monitored, there lies the importance of grains control during this stage”, explained the scientist.

The importance of this research lies in the possibility of getting better quality food and in raising awareness in society about this topic. “At the level of consumers, we recommend that if they consume these products a lot, they have to be reliable and they should know where the seller buys them and the place which sells the products, as well as having good suppliers. Regarding the food in supermarkets, we ask them to look at the expiration date, packaging and to check that they are not placed in humid places”, summarized Bulacio. On the other hand, regarding producers, she talked about the importance of ethics, “what food they use and to try to decrease risks as, for example, in a humid year, contamination is very likely”.

The teacher Clara López, Secretary of Science and Technology of the UNR and the reachers Rubén D’Espósito, Laura Ramos and Silvana Ramadán form the team with Lucía Bulacio.

Silvana Di Stéfano
sdistefa@unr.edu.ar
Silvana Di Stefano
Secretaría de Comunicación y Medios - Dirección de Prensa


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