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Pick n Pay recalls Peanut Butter stock due to cancer causing ‘aflatoxins’

Pick n Pay has recalled 'No Name Smooth', 'Eden Smooth' and 'Crunch' peanut butters after findings that some of the products were contaminated with high levels of cancer causing aflatoxins.

Pick n Pay announced at the weekend it has recalled No Name Smooth, Eden Smooth and Eden Crunch peanut butter brands after findings that some of the products may be contaminated with high levels of cancer causing aflatoxins.

“All stocks of these products have already been removed from all stores countrywide. No other peanut butter brand at Pick n Pay is involved in the recall,” Pick n Pay said. 

This comes after one consumer raised concerns after realising the peanut butter jar was darker than others. The findings led to rigorous in-house testing , upon which the products were found to have higher than regulated levels of Aflatoxin B1, which “may constitute a health risk”.

Aflatoxins are toxins produced by Aspergillus species, a fungus found especially in areas with hot and humid climates and poses several health risks when ingested or inhaled. 

Aflatoxins contamination can occur in foods such as peanuts, tree nuts such as pecans, as well as maize, rice, figs and other dried foods, oil seeds and legumes as a result of fungal contamination before and after harvest.

Exposure to aflatoxins is associated with an  increased risk of liver cancer. This finding is contained in a previous report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which classified aflatoxin B1 (the most dangerous aflatoxin) as carcinogenic. The type of cancer that it causes is hepatocellular cancer.

Symptoms of aflatoxicosis range from mild to severe and include nausea, vomiting, organ failure, and cancer. Death can result from severe cases but is more common among children than adults.

While occasionally consuming small amounts of aflatoxin poses little risk over a lifetime, to help minimise health risks, the FDA tests foods that may contain aflatoxin. 

South African regulations governing Aflotoxins

The South African Department of Health has imposed regulations governing tolerance for fungus produced toxins in terms of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act 1972 (Act 54 of 1972).

In this act, all foodstuffs ready for human consumption containing more than 10 micrograms per kilogram of aflatoxin, of which not more than 5kg may be considered contaminated.

Peanuts intended for further processing, which contain more than 15 pg/kg of aflatoxin (total) may be contaminated. 

Recommendations

To mitigate risk, the South African Department of Health promote the utilisation of the HACCP to test foods that may contain aflatoxin, with accreditation officially carried out by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS).

Peanuts and peanut butter are some of the most rigorously tested products because they often contain aflatoxins and are widely eaten, particularly by school children through school feeding schemes.

You can prevent aflatoxin intake by:

  • Buying only trusted/major brands of peanut butters, nuts and nut butters
  • Discarding any jars of peanut butter or nuts that look moldy, discolored, or contaminated
  • Avoiding stock piling of peanuts, which can cause heat build-up and moisture accumulation, resulting in mold growth

*Find the latest, insightful consumer news and headlines stories trending right now in South Africa by visiting NOWinSA Consumer page

Editor's Desk
Editor's Desk
Curated by editor-in-chief, Tankiso Komane, this special collection of articles from the Editor's Desk unpacks topics of the day, including commentary, in-depth analysis and partner content.
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