Safety and quality assessment of smallholder farmers' maize in the western highlands of Guatemala

José Rodrigo Mendoza, Ana Rodas, Ana Oliva, Luis Sabillón, Ana Colmenares, Jennifer Clarke, Heather E. Hallen-Adams, Carlos Campabadal, Andréia Bianchini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Maize (Zea mays) is a staple in many developing countries but is known to be prone to pest (insects, birds, and rodents) and fungal infestation. In Guatemala, mycotoxin contamination of cultivated products may occur owing to such factors as environmental conditions and the use of traditional agriculture operations. To assess the current maize conditions in Guatemala, a small-scale study was performed. Mold and insect counts and mycotoxin (aflatoxin and fumonisin) concentrations were determined on 25 farms in two townships (Chiantla and Todos Santos) of the Huehuetenango Department. Total fungal counts were 3.6 to 6.83 log CFU/g with no significant differences (P > 0.05) across farms at different altitudes. Farms where maize was not produced but was purchased were at higher risk of fumonisin contamination, whereas local producers were mostly affected by aflatoxins. Aflatoxin was present in maize from 100% of farms at 1.0 to 85.3 ppb, and fumonisin was detected on 52% of farms at 0.4 to 31.0 ppm. Average mycotoxin consumption amounts were above the recommended maximum intake for aflatoxin in both produced and purchased maize and above the provisional maximum tolerable daily intake for fumonisin in purchased maize. Estimated daily intake was 0.01 to 0.85 μg/kg of body weight per day for aflatoxin and 2.9 to 310.0 lg/kg of body weight per day for fumonisin. An entomological analysis revealed overall 32% prevalence of Ephestia kuehniella (flour moth), 16% prevalence of Sitophilus zeamais (maize weevil), and 8% prevalence of Tribolium sp. (flour beetle) on the analyzed farms. This study highlighted poor agricultural practices used in the highlands of Guatemala. Current practices should be revised for the production of maize that is safe for consumption by the population in this region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)776-784
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of food protection
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Corn
  • Developing country
  • Mycotoxins
  • Pests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology


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