News / Europe

Serbian Scandal Highlights Fungal Poison Danger

Serbian Scandal Highlights Fungal Poison Dangeri
X
March 02, 2013 2:48 PM
A scandal over contaminated milk in the Balkans highlights a global threat to food safety: Aflatoxins are naturally occurring poisons produced by fungi that infect many food crops worldwide. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
A scandal over contaminated milk in the Balkans highlights a global threat to food safety: Aflatoxins are naturally occurring poisons produced by fungi that infect many food crops worldwide.

Serbian Agriculture Minister Goran Knezevic says the country’s milk is safe to drink.

Tests late last month had found aflatoxins in some milk at levels higher than permitted under a law passed two years ago.

The government has now raised those limits ten-fold. But Knezevic notes that this higher level is considered safe in the United States and many other countries.

Aflatoxins can get into milk through contaminated animal feed.

Keeping it out of feed has been a challenge recently, and not just in Serbia, says U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher Peter Cotty.

“We have seen increased levels of aflatoxins this year associated with the very hot, dry conditions we had, particularly in our maize production regions in the U.S," he said.

Heat and drought put stress on crops, making it easier for the fungi that produce aflatoxin to move in.

Cotty says while high levels of the chemical in any food are a concern.

“We’re more concerned when aflatoxins occur in a staple food that people consume a great deal [of]," he said.

For example, in parts of Africa, people eat maize at every meal. And the warm environment and poor drying and storage practices make aflatoxin a perennial threat. There was a major outbreak in 2004, according to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture’s Ranajit Bandyopadhyay.

“More than 200 people in Kenya died due to aflatoxin poisoning. However, even more dangerous is its slow poisoning effect," he said.

The poisonous fungi growing on peanuts, maize and other crops in these areas are a leading cause of cancer and more, says Peter Cotty.

“They’re also associated with stunting in humans, reduced development in children. They’re also associated with reduced functioning of the immune system. And they can actually cause your liver to die,” he said.

To lower the risk, farmers in Africa, the U.S. and elsewhere are fighting fungus with fungus.

In a natural method Cotty and Bandyopadhyay developed, farmers spread their fields with grain infected with fungi very similar to those producing aflatoxin.

“And those fungi compete with aflatoxin producers and displace them in the environment. And that results in 80 to 90 percent reduction in toxin in crops with a single application,” said Cotty.

But testing for the toxin along the supply chain is the last line of defense.

And it’s a test Serbia’s dairy farmers insist they’ve passed.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid