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Apr 26, 2007

"Kenya Death Fungus" Identified as Aflatoxin Growing on Infected Corn

"Kenya death fungus"
Aspergillus flavus on ear of corn 
Photo: USDA, Agricultural Research Service
The USDA announded that its Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has identified the poisonous fungus linked to deaths in Kenya from eating corn.  The deaths were caused by consuming corn that had been infected by Aspergillus flavus fungus, known as the "S" strain.

Since 1981, there have been three outbreaks of deaths related to what is commonly known as the "Kenyan death fungus."  The fungus is invisible and produces invisible carcinogenic toxins. 

Fungal poisoning is known in the scientific world as aflatoxicosis. Aflatoxins are natural poisons that when eaten, can cause impaired growth, cancer and death. In the United States, there are standards prohibiting the sale of produce containing high levels of aflatoxins.  No such standards or inspection services exist in rural Africa.

For more see:

Peabody, Erin.  "Fungus Responsible for Africa's Deadly Maize Identified." USDA, Agricultural Research Service, News and Events, 26 April 2007

Probst, Claudia, Henry Njapau,and Peter J. Cotty.  "Outbreak of an Acute Aflatoxicosis in Kenya in 2004: Identification of the Causal Agent." Applied and Environmental Microbiology (April 2007), 73:8, 2762-2764.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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