[CT Birds] suet

Amy Hopkins hopkinsus at cs.com
Thu Feb 14 14:14:47 EST 2013

>Amy,Doesn't the FDA limit the level of aflatoxin in peanut butter?
>Meredith in Old Greenwich

Good question Meredith!

The FDA does test for aflatoxins in foods, especially peanut butter and peanuts, but they permit low levels because humans are especially tolerant to low levels of aflatoxins.  The lowest levels of aflatoxin are found in brand name peanut butters at grocery stores.  The FDA is not testing every peanut butter out there.  They would never have the resources to do that, especially with small batch production, as often found with preservative-free peanut butters, which are usually only locally produced because they are not stable for long-term storage.  Studies on peanut butters without preservatives have shown much higher levels of aflatoxin.  That's not a big problem for humans, since most people aren't consuming large amounts of peanut butter, especially the preservative-free boutique varieties, though immunocompromised people should definitely avoid them. 

Birds can be very sensitive to aflatoxins, however, especially since their small size means that they may be consuming much greater amounts per body weight.  A bird that gets aspergillosis or is exposed to aflatoxin (produced by aspergillus) may get very sick or die.  Most common effects are liver disorders (including cancer), blood disorders, and suppression of the immune system.  A post-mortem study of yard birds in Britain showed high levels of aflatoxin in some birds.  So anything we can do to make their (artificial) food sources as healthy as possible for them is best!  Of note, bird seed mixes do also contain some level of aflatoxin, particularly those with peanuts and corn.  The longer the seed is held, particularly in damp conditions, the more likely to find aflatoxin.  It's also another reason to rake up periodically under bird feeders.

Probably more than you wanted to know!  LOL

Amy Hopkins
Guilford, CT

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