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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Microbiology - Public Health and Epidemiology - Science Policy

Aflatoxin Regulations in a Network of Global Maize Trade
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Author: Felicia Wu et al.

by Felicia Wu, Hasan Guclu

Worldwide, food supplies often contain unavoidable contaminants, many of which adversely affect health and hence are subject to regulations of maximum tolerable levels in food. These regulations differ from nation to nation, and may affect patterns of food trade. We soughtto determine whether there is an association between nations' food safety regulations and global food trade patterns, with implications for public health and policymaking. We developed a network model of maize trade around the world. From maize import/export data for 217 nations from 2000–2009, we calculated basic statistics on volumes of trade; then examined how regulations of aflatoxin, a common contaminant of maize, are similar or different between pairs of nations engaging in significant amounts of maize trade. Globally, market segregation appears to occur among clusters of nations. The United States is at the center of one cluster; European countries make up another cluster with hardly any maize trade with the US; and Argentina, Brazil, and China export maize all over the world. Pairs of nations trading large amounts of maize have very similar aflatoxin regulations: nations with strict standards tend to trade maize with each other, while nations with more relaxed standards tend to trade maize with each other. Rarely among the top pairs of maize-trading nations do total aflatoxin standards (standards based on the sum of the levels of aflatoxins B1, B2, G1, and G2) differ by more than 5 µg/kg. These results suggest that, globally, separate maize trading communities emerge; and nations tend to trade with other nations that have very similar food safety standards.
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