ABSTRACT

This study was carried out to evaluate the prevalence of mycobiota and aflatoxin (AF) B1 contamination in sesame seeds from rainfed and irrigated zones of the Punjab, Pakistan. For this purpose, 100 sesame seed samples were collected directly from the fields of major sesame-producing areas in rainfed and irrigated zones. The agar plate method was used for isolation of mycobiota, and thin-layer chromatography was used to determine AFB1 concentrations. Seed samples were then stored for 12 months. After 12 months, the seeds were again analyzed for mycobiota and AFB1 for comparison. All samples were positive for fungal growth under fresh and stored conditions. Twenty-one fungal species of 10 genera were isolated. Aspergillus flavus was the most prevalent contaminant found in fresh and stored sesame seeds from rainfed and irrigated zones, followed by Aspergillus niger, Alternaria alternata, and Fusarium oxysporum. The least prevalent fungi were Aspergillus ochraceus and Cladosporium oxysporum. Analysis revealed that 92% of fresh and 99% of stored seed samples were contaminated with AFB1. In the rainfed zone, 88% of fresh and 100% of stored seed samples were contaminated with AFB1, with mean concentrations of 15.74 and 33.8 ppb, respectively. In the irrigated zone, 96% of fresh and 98% of stored seed samples were contaminated with AFB1, with mean concentrations of 20.5 and 27.56 ppb, respectively. AFB1 concentrations >20 ppb were found in 20% of fresh and 100% of stored seeds samples from the rainfed zone and in 28% of fresh and 60% of stored samples from the irrigated zone and thus were not fit for human consumption as per the maximum limit (20 ppb) assigned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This report is the first on the mycobiota and AFB1 contamination in sesame seeds from rainfed and irrigated zones of the Punjab, Pakistan. These baseline data are an initial step in the effort to deal with this significant food safety issue.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fresh and stored sesame seeds were positive for fungal growth.

  • The leading contaminant in fresh and stored sesame seeds was Aspergillus flavus.

  • Overall, 92% of fresh and 99% of stored seed samples were contaminated with AFB1.

  • In the rainfed zone, 88% of fresh and 100% of stored samples were contaminated with AFB1.

  • In the irrigated zone, 96% of fresh and 98% of stored samples were contaminated with AFB1.

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