Mycotoxins are a secondary metabolite produced by some molds that readily grow on foods, such as corn, peanuts, coffee beans, cotton, maize, some spices and certain animal feeds. Aflatoxins that are ingested by a cow can change the toxin into a different form that can enter into the milk. Mycotoxins toxins can cause disease and death in humans as well as animals that eat the infected materials. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published updated guidelines in the US in 2018 concerning the allowable amounts of mycotoxins in human feed and animal feed. In most instances, 20 parts per billion is the regulatory limit for direct human exposure. https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/guidance-industry-action-levels-poisonous-or-deleterious-substances-human-food-and-animal-feed#afla
Mycotoxins in Cannabis
For cannabis products, unfortunately the same environments that the plant grow best in, are the same conditions that the molds love. Two of the primary types of mycotoxins that are associated with cannabis are aflatoxins and ochratoxins. Aflatoxins are chemical mycotoxins produced by the Aspergillus parasiticus and Aspergillus flavus. The mycotoxins produced by these two fungal species have been shown to cause cancer. In fact, they are some of the most “mutagenic” toxins known to man. They can that suppress the immune system, mutate DNA, and cross the placental barrier to infect an unborn fetus in the womb. Ochratoxins are a less common form of mycotoxins, but they also have a similar carcinogenic and mutagenic abilities to humans as aflatoxins.
Aflatoxins are the most common form of Mycotoxins. There are five types of aflatoxins: B1, B2, G1, G2 and M1. Aflatoxins are considered some of the most carcinogenic compounds known to affect humans. Aflatoxin M1 is unique as it is actually not formed directly from molds, but is an animal metabolite coming mainly that from cows that have consumed aflatoxin-contaminated feed. This is especially concerning to the dairy industry, as milk has the strictest Aflatoxin regulatory limit of 0.5ppb for the M1 toxin; whereas foods have a limit of 20ppb for the other Aflatoxins.