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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

Spatiotemporal Assessment of Post-Harvest Mycotoxin Contamination in Rural North Indian Food Systems


The spatiotemporal trends in aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), fumonisin B1 (FB1), and deoxynivalenol (DON) accumulation were analyzed in a range of food commodities (maize, groundnut, pearl millet, rice, and wheat) in village settings in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, India. Samples (n = 1549) were collected across six communities and six time points spanning a calendar year and were analyzed for mycotoxins using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. AFB1 and FB1 were common across surveyed villages, with moderate to high detection rates (45–75%) observed across commodities. AFB1 levels in maize and groundnuts and FB1 levels in maize and pearl millet frequently exceeded regulatory threshold levels of 15 μg/kg (AFB1) and 2 μg/g (FB1). DON was analyzed in wheat, with 3% of samples yielding detectable levels and none exceeding 1 μg/g. In rice, AFB1 levels were highest in the bran and husk and lower in the kernel. Commodity type significantly influenced AFB1 detection status, while commodity type, season, and visual quality influenced samples’ legal status. Storage characteristics and household socioeconomic status indicators did not have significant effects on contamination. No significant effects of any variables on FB1 detection or legal status were observed. Data on mycotoxin contamination, combined with data on local dietary intake, were used to estimate spatiotemporal mycotoxin exposure profiles. Estimated seasonal per capita exposure levels for AFB1 (5.4–39.3 ng/kg body weight/day) and FB1 (~0–2.4 μg/kg body weight/day) exceeded provisional maximum tolerable daily intake levels (1 ng/kg body weight/day for AFB1 and 2 μg/kg body weight/day for FB1) in some seasons and locations. This study demonstrates substantial dietary mycotoxin exposure risk in Unnao food systems and serves as an evidentiary foundation for participatory food safety intervention in the region.

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