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Peanuts and Aflatoxin

Author: Pamela Milward

From Issue 35 Oct 2000

I'm sure many of you must have seen the recent warnings given by such organisations as the RSPB and the Nature Trusts against feeding birds, squirrels or badgers with peanuts this year. This is due to the exceptional high levels of aflatoxin contamination. Aflatoxin is a deadly toxin that is fatal to birds and many animals. Virtually all peanuts entering the UK and other parts of Europe are contaminated to a greater or lesser extent. The high level this winter is due to weather conditions and it is hoped that the next crop may show lower levels.

I wrote to one or two firms producing hamster mixes that contain peanuts and they seemed to feel that their mixtures are carefully tested and are safe but it still causes me some worry. Do any readers know the signs of poisoning by aflatoxins? Can we trust all firms to carry out strict tests?

I find it increasingly difficult to find safe food for my hamsters and already check for and remove any locust beans, sharp oats and whole maize grains. Now I think I'll also take out peanuts to be on the safe side. I also don't want unnecessary colourings, pesticide remnants or GM ingredients in foods I give my hamsters as I avoid these where possible in my own food.

I'd be interested to hear the views of others.