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Amongst plant pathogenic fungi and fungi which colonize agricultural commodities, foods and feeds are capable of producing toxic secondary metabolites (toxins) that induce diseases in humans and animals (mycotoxins), insects (entomo-toxins), in plant (phytotoxins) and toward others micro-organisms (antibiotics).

Some toxigenic fungi (TF) are parasitic and colonize crops (e.g. wheat, corn, barley) and agricultural commodities. Under favourable conditions, their growth can accumulate (in infected products) significant amounts of mycotoxins at any phase of the life cycle, i.e. from plant growth to consumption. Such colonization of TF and accumulation of mycotoxins represents a high risk to animal and human health, causes production losses in the animals that ingest them. Moreover, feed contaminated by mycotoxins may not necessarily have a direct adverse effect on the animals, but may instead have a carry-over of the toxins, or their metabolites, into dairy and meat products, thus creating a further danger by exposing humans to mycotoxins.

Currently, many cases of animal and human mycotoxicosis and losses of production due to infertility have been reported in several European countries. Increasing levels and diffusion of fungal toxins in agricultural commodities and their potent toxicity have obliged European governmental authorities to impose severe limitations on the TF and their mycotoxin occurrence.

Correct identification and toxicological characterization of pathogens and colonizing fungi of crop plants and in food is determined by assaying their toxigenic potential risks and to prevent plant, animal and human diseases.

Additional information

Authors: MULDER R, COST - Action 835 and COST Agriculture and Biotechnology, EC-Directorate General for Research (LU);LOGRIECO A, COST - Action 835 and COST Agriculture and Biotechnology, EC-Directorate General for Research (LU)
Bibliographic Reference: EUR: 19694 EN (2000), pp253, Euro: free of charge
Availability: Available from the European Commission, DG XII Communication Unit, rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 200, B-1049 Bruxelles (BE) Fax:+32-2-2958220 Internet:
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