Public health impacts of foodborne mycotoxins

Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2014:5:351-72. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-030713-092431. Epub 2014 Jan 9.


Mycotoxins are toxic and carcinogenic metabolites produced by fungi that colonize food crops. The most agriculturally important mycotoxins known today are aflatoxins, which cause liver cancer and have also been implicated in child growth impairment and acute toxicoses; fumonisins, which have been associated with esophageal cancer (EC) and neural tube defects (NTDs); deoxynivalenol (DON) and other trichothecenes, which are immunotoxic and cause gastroenteritis; and ochratoxin A (OTA), which has been associated with renal diseases. This review describes the adverse human health impacts associated with these major groups of mycotoxins. First, we provide background on the fungi that produce these different mycotoxins and on the food crops commonly infected. Then, we describe each group of mycotoxins in greater detail, as well as the adverse effects associated with each mycotoxin and the populations worldwide at risk. We conclude with a brief discussion on estimations of global burden of disease caused by dietary mycotoxin exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aflatoxins / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Cost of Illness
  • Crops, Agricultural / microbiology
  • Diet
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Food Contamination
  • Foodborne Diseases*
  • Fumonisins / toxicity
  • Gastroenteritis / chemically induced
  • Growth Disorders / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Liver Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Mycotoxins*
  • Neural Tube Defects / chemically induced
  • Ochratoxins / toxicity
  • Public Health*
  • Trichothecenes / toxicity


  • Aflatoxins
  • Fumonisins
  • Mycotoxins
  • Ochratoxins
  • Trichothecenes
  • ochratoxin A