MUCH-LOVED British staples, like bread and pasta, contain harmful fungal toxins that pose a serious threat to human health, experts have warned.
Most wheat – the main ingredient found in several starchy carbs – produced the UK is infected a fungal disease called fusarium head blight (FHB), new analysis shows.
FHB is not harmful to humans, but the substance it produces, known as mycotoxin, can kill.
Experts from the UK found that 70 per cent of wheat produced in Britain between 2010 and 2019 contained deadly mycotoxins.
They also found levels of the mycotoxin, vomitoxin, found in the majority of British wheat were within legal limits.
However, the researchers from the Universities of Bath and Exeter said the fact vomitoxin is found in so many of our foods is “concerning”.
“It is not yet known how constant, low-level dietary exposure to mycotoxins can affect human health in the long term,” Neil Brown, a scientist in the study from the University of Bath.
Mycotoxins have previously been linked to liver cancer and kidney diseases.
They can also cause acute temporary vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headache, and fever.
The analysis, published in Nature Food, also found one-quarter of the wheat contaminated several different mycotoxins.
This “raising concerns of synergism,” Neil wrote in The Conversation. “This is where toxins interact with each other and cause greater harm than the sum of the individual toxins acting alone.”
This comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that deadly fungal infections are on the rise globally.
In its first ever report on the 19 fungal priority pathogens to watch, the WHO said antifungal resistance has “major implications” for human health.
Many fungal pathogens, including candida which causes common infections like vaginal thrush, are becoming increasingly resistant to treatment.
Professor Jon Cohen of infectious diseases at Brighton & Sussex Medical School, said that fungal infections are “less common than other types of infection but can cause extremely serious disease or death.”
The WHO estimate that 1.7 million people die each year as a result of fungal disease.
In most healthy people the immune system can fight off the infection, but it can be life threatening in already ill people, or immunocompromised individuals.