Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world, behind only heart disease, and rising mortality rates make it a significant public health threat. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that almost nine million people a year die as a result of cancer, with one of the most common forms of the disease being liver cancer, accounting for around 800,000 deaths, but being particularly prevalent in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.
Although there are many causes of liver cancer, most are avoidable, with lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking alcohol being key contributors. However, one of the leading factors is contaminated food, which – although technically avoidable – often cannot be directly controlled by members of the public.
Aflatoxin – a toxic natural substance produced by fungus and mold found in certain foods – is an ongoing threat to the global population. The toxin can be found in a number of food types but is most commonly found in grains such as rice and corn, soybeans, certain cooking oils, and nuts – particularly peanuts.
Research shows that the chronic intake of foods infected with aflatoxin can increase the risk of dying from liver cancer by up to 66 percent. It is classified as a group 1 carcinogenic agent, and is estimated to be 68 times more deadly than arsenic.
Aflatoxin generally grows in damp environments such as storehouses that are not kept below a certain humidity level, and can quickly spread once it develops, infecting other food and products.
As it is colorless and tasteless, it can be extremely difficult to identify, while the substance can also withstand temperatures up to 280℃, meaning it cannot be destroyed or removed by cooking or boiling. As a result, many traditional methods have proven ineffective at detecting or removing aflatoxin.
TOMRA works with food manufactures to combat the threat
As the global pioneer in sensor-based sorting, TOMRA continues to dynamically drive the development of more efficient sensors to enhance customer processing lines.
TOMRA fully understands the importance of eliminating aflatoxin from the food manufacturing process and ensuring food safety, to protect consumers around the world. As such, TOMRA has collaborated closely with food manufacturers and processors to ensure food quality.
Aflatoxin is not only a major health threat, but also a commercial and logistical issue for many food exporters. Grains and nuts exported from some countries, such as China, are frequently rejected by customs officers at international borders due to excessive aflatoxin levels.