The history, toxicological effects, world-wide natural occurrence and impact of the fumonisins, food-borne carcinogenic mycotoxins produced by Fusarium moniliforme, are reviewed from the original description of the fungus in 1881 to the present. Following the isolation and characterization of fumonisin B1 and B2 and the publication of the first 3 papers on fumonisins by South African researchers in 1988, the interest in these compounds increased dramatically during 1989 and 1990 because of numerous outbreaks of mycotoxicoses in animals associated with the 1989 corn crop in the USA. Major advances made during this period were published in approximately 49 papers from 1988 to 1991. During the period 1992 to 1994, there was an explosion in the literature on fumonisins and at least 212 papers were published. The information contained in the more than 260 papers on fumonisins published to date is reviewed with respect to toxicological effects, association with animal and human diseases, and world-wide natural occurrence in corn and corn-based feeds and foods. Impact of the fumonisins is addressed with respect to their implications for human and animal health, risk assessment and establishment of tolerance levels.