Warming could bring on attack of the killer cornflake

May 26th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by admin  

Sydney, May 26 (DPA) Back in the Middle Ages, where in some parts of Europe rye bread often bore the ergot fungus, there are accounts of outbreaks where whole villagers ate the mouldy staple and experienced hallucinations, manic depression, gangrene, abortions, reduced fertility and painful convulsive death. It might all happen again if climate change brings higher temperatures and lower rainfall to Australia’s east coast and there are high concentrations of aflatoxins.

That warning was delivered at the World Congress on Environmental Health in Brisbane by Central Queensland University researcher Lisa Bricknell.

“While killer cornflakes may not precisely be around the corner, we do have potential for increasing aflatoxin exposure,” she told the gathering.

“We need to investigate risk management for maize production and we need to undertake careful monitoring of food products coming into our country.”

Aflatoxins are not a risk in a single dose but build up in the body over time. They show up in the food chain as a result of the fungal infection of crops in the field or in storage.

Bricknell said there had been recent outbreaks of high levels of aflatoxins in crops in Australia. Global warming would exacerbate these outbreaks.

“Rainfall is correlated with aflatoxin contamination, so not only do these conditions favour aflatoxin contamination but they also induce plant stress, which is going to make our plants more susceptible to contamination,” Bricknell said.

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