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Investigating the Impacts of Mycotoxin Regulations on Human Health and Trade

Bui-Klimke, Travis (2013) Investigating the Impacts of Mycotoxin Regulations on Human Health and Trade. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The overall goal of this research was to investigate the impacts of mycotoxin regulations on human health and trade. Mycotoxins are toxic and carcinogenic secondary metabolites produced by a variety of fungi that infect food crops around the world. Specifically this research focuses on potential health and trade impacts of regulations on the mycotoxins aflatoxin and ochratoxin A (OTA). Aflatoxin is produced primarily by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus and is one of the most potent liver carcinogens known. OTA, produced by the fungi A. ochraceus, A. carbonarius, A. niger, and Penicilium verrucosum has been associated with various human nephropathies and has been shown to be a potent renal carcinogen in animals.
This project makes significant contributions to public health through 1) increasing the understanding of how mycotoxin regulations guide trade and how trade patterns influence exposure to aflatoxin and 2) determining if OTA exposure is associated with adverse health effects.

First, in light of Health Canada’s recently proposed maximum limits for OTA in a variety of commodities, OTA was evaluated to determine its effects on human health and the economy. A human health risk assessment revealed, with one exception, there appears to be no statistically significant evidence for human health risks associated with OTA exposure. Furthermore, implementation of the proposed OTA MLs in Canada could cause economic losses to Canadian food producers in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Second, using pistachios as a case commodity model, trade patterns from the US and Iran to various countries worldwide were analyzed to determine if countries with similar aflatoxin regulations trade more with each other than countries with dissimilar standards. If countries without aflatoxin regulations are importing increased amounts of foods with high levels of aflatoxin they will be at risk for increased associated adverse health effects. A variety of metrics and social network models were used to confirm that over the past 15 years the US increasingly exported pistachios to countries with stricter aflatoxin standards, while Iran exported to countries with more lenient or without regulations. The US pistachio crop has had consistently lower levels of aflatoxin than the Iranian crop over this same time period. Attempts to determine the causality of the relationship between trade patterns and regulations were made; however, due to conflicting results, no conclusions could be made.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBarchowsky, Aaronaab20@pitt.eduAAB20
Committee MemberWu, Feliciafew8@pitt.eduFEW8
Committee MemberYuan, Jian-Minyuanj@upmc.eduYUANJ
Committee MemberGuclu, Hasanguclu@pitt.eduGUCLU
Committee MemberKensler, Thomastkensler@pitt.eduTKENSLER
Date: 27 September 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 July 2013
Approval Date: 27 September 2013
Submission Date: 18 July 2013
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 117
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Environmental and Occupational Health
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: mycotoxins, aflatoxin, ochratoxin a, risk assessment, social network modeling, regulations
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2013 14:41
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2016 14:41


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