This review presents the different mycotoxins (aflatoxins, fumonisins and ochratoxin A) produced in agricultural crops in the West African sub-region. The acute and chronic toxic effects of the various mycotoxins are presented. Maize and groundnuts have been found to be excellent substrate for aflatoxin contamination, while fumonisins are widely distributed in maize. Other food products for which mycotoxin contamination has been reported in the sub-region include dried yam chips, tiger nut, melon seeds and stored herbal plants. Mycotoxin contamination is favoured by stress factors during plant growth, late harvesting of crops, high ambient humidity preventing thorough drying, unscientific storage practices and lack of awareness. Control measures include education of the populace on the danger of mycotoxin contaminated diet, early harvesting, rapid drying, sorting, sanitation, use of improved storage structures, smoking, insect control, the use of botanicals and synthetic chemicals as storage protectants, fumigation, biological control, the use of resistant varieties and detoxification of mycotoxin contaminated grains.
Key words: Mycotoxins, aflatoxins, food, fumonisins, ochratoxin A, surveillance, toxicology, prevention, control, West Africa.
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