European Food Safety Authority outlines increased mycotoxin risk in parts of Europe

What do molds and fungi need to grow? Moisture and warmth.

As the climates of significant parts of our planet become increasingly hot and wet, experts are advising that we’ll see changes in the development of the molds that harm agriculture in those areas.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has reported that the gradual increase in temperature seen on the continent in recent decades, along with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air and changing rainfall patterns, is leading to increased amounts of mold in regions that previously were not as greatly affected.

These molds can produce harmful mycotoxins, naturally occurring toxins that especially impact grains, either while they’re still in the field, or when in storage.

To ensure their crops meet EFSA’s mycotoxin limits in human food and animal feed, producers have increased the amount of mycotoxin testing and strengthened their mycotoxin monitoring programs. Farmers in multiple countries, including the United Kingdom, are reporting how the unusually wet weather of 2017 has led to a “bleak picture” in terms of mycotoxins.

Aflatoxin is one such mycotoxin that’s become a big deal during the warm, humid summers of Southern Europe, especially in maize. As the weather in parts of Central Europe start looking a little more like that of the south, experts are concerned that aflatoxin will become a bigger hazard there. Using predictive maps, EFSA has shown that the likeliest highest risk of mycotoxins will come with a temperature increase of just a few degrees.

“Now when we consider climate change, we can see already now that some of the mycotoxins, particularly in the southern part of Europe, are coming more into Central Europe, and where the weather is starting to get a bit too warm for them, they are disappearing,” said EFSA’s Mari Eskola.

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