Consumer Concerns

Recently there was a new brand of Peanut Butter on sale in our markets. It seemed designed to imitate the popular Peter Pan Peanut Butter as the colours and design of the label were so similar that many persons purchased the Peter Hans, Reduced Fat in error, thinking it was Peter Pan, Reduced Fat.

In the 1980s our Guyana Consumers Association (gca) was concerned about the safety of Peanut Butter that was prepared by persons not familiar with the dangers of it. Cassian Mittelholzer, who was secretary of the GCA, made a broadcast on the topic and luckily this was saved in our magazine WHY? It follows:

“Today we are going to talk about Peanuts, Peanut Butter and Aflatoxin – a potent carcinogen, that is a dangerous cancer hazard. It is the product of a common mould with the high-sounding name of ASPERGILLUR FLAVUS.

Somewhere around 1960 a new mysterious disease wiped out some one hundred thousand turkeys in England. The disease was called “TURKEY -X”. It was a baffling disease which took the form of liver damage. It came as a nasty surprise when RESEARCH SCIENTISTS discovered that some moulds produced mycotoxins (or mould poisons). Other researchers, following on this discovery, pinpointed the common source of the TURKEY – X disease as the peanut meal used in the turkey feed. The peanut meal contained a mycotoxin (peanut mould called Aflatoxin.

Aflatoxin can contaminate virtually any grain, fruit or vegetable that has been stored in a damp place at temperatures permitting the growth of mould. Peanuts seem to be especially vulnerable.

If peanut shells are damaged by machines or agricultural implements during harvesting, or by insects during storage, it is easier for the Aspergillus Flavus mould to invade the peanut. Moisture helps the mould to grow, encouraging the production of the dangerous Aflatoxin. Unless damaged peanuts are picked out, and unless dampness is controlled or obviated, peanuts in storage can readily become contaminated.

Remember, scientists have already determined that Aflatoxin is a powerful carcinogen, or cancer-producing agent. Incidentally, you must know what the inside of a diseased peanut looks like.

Peanuts are a good source of protein especially for growing children. Munching peanuts is a popular habit the world over, including our homeland where peanut farming is expanding steadily. But for us, munching peanuts is an expensive habit at $6 a pound and, not infrequently, a great deal dearer when much of your purchase turns out to be mouldy and obviously diseased.

What then about peanut butter? What are our chances there? First, let us get a few facts straight In 1965 the United States Food and Drug Administration restricted the Aflatoxin level in peanuts and peanut butter to a maximum of 30 parts per billion (p.p.b) and in 1969 the level was reduced to 20 p.p.b. and a still further reduction is under consideration.

In 1972 official tests disclosed Aflatoxin in 9 of 50 samples of supermarket brands (of Peanut Butter). In 1978 the results were indeed worrying. Tests were made of two samples of each of 38 brands – 76 samples in all. Only 9 of the 76 were found to have no detectable levels of Aflatoxin and, in addition, three samples exceeded the Food and Drugs Division’s limit of 20 p.p.b.

(To be concluded next week)

Around the Web