Copyright 1997 Alan T. Hagan. All rights reserved.
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It's long been known that eating moldy grain is bad for your health. The ugly consequences of eating ergot-infected rye probably make the best known example. It's only been for about thirty years, though, that intensive study of these grain fungi have been carried out on other varieties of molds and their respective mycotoxins. Fortunately, for those of us in the US, the USDA and the various state departments of agriculture go to a great deal of trouble to detect grain and legumes infected with these toxic fungi. In some of the less developed countries, the citizenry are not so lucky. Still, it is good to have something of an understanding of what one should do to prevent mold growth in ones stored grains and to have an idea of what to look for and ask about when purchasing grains and legumes.
The one fungal type that has caused the most commotion in recent history are the various Aspergillus species of molds. Under certain conditions with certain grains, legumes and to a lesser extent, nuts, they can produce a mycotoxin called "aflatoxin". This is a serious problem in some parts of the world, most especially in peanuts, occasionally in corn. There have been no deaths I am aware of in the United States from aflatoxicity, though other countries have not been so fortunate. What makes aflatoxin so worrisome in this country is that it is also a very potent carcinogen (cancer causing agent).
In addition to the Aspergillus molds, there is also a very large family of molds called Fusarium and these can produce a wide variety of mycotoxins, all of which you do not want to be eating directly or feeding to your animals where you will get it indirectly when you eat them.
The Federal government and the various state governments continuously monitor food and forage crops. Those products which are prone to mold growth and toxin production are not allowed to be sold for food. Once purchased however, it is up to you to keep your food safe from mold growth. If you have already found mold growth in your whole grains, meals, flours or other grain products, they should be discarded. Most mycotoxins are not broken down or destroyed by cooking temperatures and there is no safe way to salvage grain that has molded.
DISCLAIMER: Safe and effective food storage requires attention to detail and proper equipment and ingredients. The author makes no warranties and assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the text, or damages resulting from the use or misuse of information contained herein. Placement of or access to this work on this or any other site does not mean the author espouses or adopts any political, philosophical or meta-physical concepts that may also be expressed wherever this work appears.