Mother milk is the best food source for infants during the early stages of their lives since it is rich in nutrients; including a proper balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins. WHO recommends breast-feeding as a best and sole source of infant feeding. (Akhtar, S., Shahzad, A. M, Hameed, A., et al., 2017). Infants usually require mother milk for at least 2 years, for it helps in the proper development of the healthy immune system, nervous system, digestive system, reproductive system, and the strong physical structure of the infant. Moreover, it promotes the mother-child relationship. (Akhtar, S., Shahzad, A. M, Hameed, A., et al., 2017). When mothers cannot breastfeed for one reason or another, infant formula is the second best option to provide the infant with the required nutrients for a proper development.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, at least 25% of the world’s food crops are contaminated with mycotoxins. (Omar, S. S., 2016). Mycotoxins have become increasingly important worldwide in our understanding of food safety and food poisoning. (Kabak, B., 2012). Mycotoxins’ production is due to many different factors like humidity and warmth, genetics of the fungi and plants, as well as food storage conditions.
Aflatoxins are one of the mycotoxins, which are naturally occurring toxins; or secondary metabolites of fungus; produced mainly by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. They have adverse effects on humans, animals, and crops that results in illnesses and economic losses. (Omar, S. S., 2016).
Aflatoxins are classified as group 1 carcinogens by IARC. There are different types of aflatoxins which include, AFB1, AFB2, AFG1, AFG2, AFM1, and AFM2. In our study we were interested in AFM1 which is an aflatoxin commonly present in milk and dairy products.
AFM1 results from the consumption of animals to feedstuffs contaminated with AFB1. AFB1 is bio-transformed by hepatic microsomal cytochrome P450 to AFM1 which has a 10 times less carcinogenic potential than the AFB1. (Rastogi, S., Das, M., 2003).
AFB1 is classified as group 1 (carcinogenic to humans), while AFM1 is classified as group 2B (potential human carcinogen). The presence of AFM1 in milk possesses a major risk for humans, especially infants, as it can have immunosuppressive, mutagenic, and tetratogenic effects. (Kanungo, L., Bhand, S., 2013). Moreover, infants are a vulnerable part of the population due to their physiology, a fairly restricted diet, and a higher consumption relative to their body. (Kabak, B., 2012). AFM1 is especially dangerous since it is resistant to thermal treatment, pasteurization, autoclaving, and other food processing procedures. Many countries have set or proposed legal regulations for AFM1 levels in milk and dairy products; often based on economic considerations.