Stunting is a national public health problem in South Africa affecting approximately 15.4% of children. Among the many possible causes of growth retardation is exposure to toxic substances by dietary means. Human exposure to mycotoxins and/or heavy metals has been linked to stunting. These two groups of food contaminants occur naturally in the environment, in the air and soil. Environmental factors such as climatic conditions, harvesting methods, storage- and transportation systems all provide multiple opportunities for mycotoxin and/or heavy metal contamination. Plants, as components of animal feed exposed to mycotoxins and heavy metals, become a pathway to contaminate meat and meat products.
The data used for this study is drawn from the monitoring and evaluation programme of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – which screens heavy metal and mycotoxin contamination in meat – and from an original research study established at the University of Pretoria which studied mycotoxin contamination in red meat. The location and time of sampling from these two data sets were cross referenced with environmental conditions known to have an impact on contamination levels. Results
The data in the two data sets were analysed. It was found that none of the beef and pork samples tested positive for mycotoxins. Two samples tested positive for heavy metals in 2012, namely lead (610 _g/kg) in Malmesbury and mercury (200 _g/kg) in Bela-Bela. No link could be made to any environmental factors as there were no positive mycotoxin results and no correlation could be found for the two positive incidences of heavy metal contamination.
As no sample tested positive for mycotoxins, no correlation between environmental factors and mycotoxin contamination could be established. Further to that, there was no correlation between heavy metal contamination levels and environmental factors.