Aflatoxins in food and milk can seriously harm humans, animals, and corporate reputations. But Nestlé Group in China and the longest-serving peanut-shelling plant in the USA are both showing how laser sorting machines can eliminate the risk. Food contamination by aflatoxins, which can cause cancer, is worrying scientists and regulators. New concerns about these naturally-occurring poisons, voiced earlier this year by scientific advisors, have provided a stark reminder of the health risk to consumers and the commercial risk to food businesses.
Aflatoxins are a problem most commonly encountered with plants grown or foods stored in parts of Asia, Africa, and the United States. This is because the toxins originate in two species of fungus which favor hot and humid climates. In February 2018, however, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that there are also concerns about “the elevated aflatoxin levels observed by some food commodities originating from European countries.” Now there are calls for EFSA to make its first full risk assessment of aflatoxins in more than a decade.
These concerns are not surprising: aflatoxins are 68 times more lethal than arsenic and capable of seriously damaging human and animal livers. Aflatoxins can cause fever, malaise, and anorexia, followed by abdominal pain, vomiting, and hepatitis. Worse still, chronic toxicity from aflatoxins can reduce immune efficiency and trigger cancer, which is why they are classified by the World Health Organization as a Group 1 Carcinogen. The best method for aflatoxin detection is to employ sensor-based sorting machines produced by TOMRA, the global pioneer in food safety assurance technology. TOMRA’s machines employ Near Infra-Red (NIR) spectroscopy, fluorescent lighting, and state-of-the-art lasers to analyze the surface structure and elemental composition of objects passing along a food production line. The special optical design of TOMRA’s Detox laser makes it possible to identify the extremely low intensity of light reflected by aflatoxin mold and fungus in a variety of food types, enabling the detection of aflatoxin contamination.