Aflatoxin (You got mycotoxin in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter in my mycotoxin!)

Aflatoxin is a toxin produced by certain funguses that acts on the liver:


The asperilligus strains that express aflatoxins (this is a broad class of molecules; the one above is aflatoxin B1) grow on lots of different crops. Your peanut butter certainly contains some. Fortunately, people are one of the hardiest species as far as aflatoxin exposure, and that PB&J is more a concern for someone with impaired liver function.


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Anon: One brand of PB may contain much more mycotoxins than another, organic or not.

It depends on the conditions of the crop itself, and what it has been exposed to by the grower, warehouser and in transport.

Any crop, organic or not, can become tainted if left in the elements and not managed appropriately.

The peanut supply can come from several countries, which handle their crops differently.

There is one brand I tried which tasted and smelled like it was from old peanuts, and another that I prefer, as tastes great and smells fresh. Try different brands yourself, there is a big difference.

A beautiful, eye-grabbing title! I worked on preventing AFB1-induced liver damage a long while ago so the structure is near and dear to my heart (or liver).

this is not so: aflatoxins are extremely dangerous to infants and small children. In 70s there was a scandal in Czechoslovakia: a bad batch of infant formula killed about dozen of infants and sickened many more. It came from cows that were given moldy feedstock (that contained some spoiled grains and nuts). Turns out aflatoxins transfer into milkfat readily. The commie government swept it under rug, they said they did not want to create a panic. I know this one from a chemist who was working on analytical tests that was to be used on imported foodstuff. He said he saw the autopsy reports from the aflatoxin poisoning.

From another chemist I learned that Czechoslovakia was for some time the world's main producer of aflatoxins, they were cranking out more than 15g of the concentrated aflatoxin mixture per month, in a pilot lab run by the State Security agency. They were growing Aspergilus on cheap diet crackers as a medium - the Aspergillus Flavus mold aparently is not very finnicky and they had huge vats of the stuff. Their biggest problem was how to protect the chemists from accidentally poisoning themself, because aflatoxin extract in organic solvents penetrate latex gloves promptly.

It all went to USSR and it was a big secret. Later I was reading that Soviet Army was acused of testing some natural-product based poisonous spray in Afganistan, and the spray was strongly yellow...

Ok, science community: I have heard (I think I read it in Scientific American years ago, but I cannot recall) that levels of aflatoxin are higher in organic peanut butter than in non-organic. True? False? Propaganda?