Aflatoxins are toxins produced by a mold that grows in nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Although aflatoxins are known to cause cancer in animals, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) allows them at low levels because they are considered “unavoidable contaminants” of these foods.

The FDA believes the occasional consumption of small amounts of aflatoxin pose little risk over a lifetime. It is not practical to attempt to remove aflatoxin from food products in order to make them safer.

Food Sources  

The mold that produces aflatoxin may be found in the following foods:

  • Peanuts and peanut butter  
  • Tree nuts such as pecans  
  • Corn  
  • Wheat  
  • Oil seeds such as cottonseed


To help minimize risk, the FDA tests foods that may contain aflatoxin. Peanuts and peanut butter are some of the most rigorously tested products by FDA because they frequently contain aflatoxins and are widely consumed.

You can reduce aflatoxin intake by:

  • Buying only major brands of nuts and nut butters  
  • Discarding any nuts that look moldy, discolored or shriveled


Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Simon D. Mitin, M.D.

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