Africa: Extreme weather increasing level of toxins in food

| June 13, 2016

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Certain food crops are producing more health-damaging chemicals as a result of exposure to climate extremes, placing people and animals at risk of illness, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Crops such as maize, wheat, barley, soybeans, millet, and sorghum can accumulate nitrate during prolonged droughts. If people consume too much nitrate, it can interfere with the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body.

Plants such as cassava, flax, maize, and sorghum can accumulate hydrogen cyanide when exposed to sudden large amounts of rain. This substance also interferes with oxygen flow.

Aflatoxins are also becoming more prevalent because of shifting weather patterns. Aflatoxins can contaminate crops and, when consumed, increase the risk of liver damage and cancer.

The report says that these chemical compounds can be harmful to people and animals if consumed for a prolonged period of time.

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Photo credit: REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro