There is a need to develop food-compatible conditions to alter the structures of fungal, bacterial, and plant toxins, thus transforming toxins to nontoxic molecules. The term ‘chemical genetics’ has been used to describe this approach. This overview attempts to survey and consolidate the widely scattered literature on the inhibition by natural compounds and plant extracts of the biological (toxicological) activity of the following food-related toxins: aflatoxin B1, fumonisins, and ochratoxin A produced by fungi; cholera toxin produced by Vibrio cholerae
bacteria; Shiga toxins produced by E
bacteria; staphylococcal enterotoxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus
bacteria; ricin produced by seeds of the castor plant Ricinus communis
the glycoalkaloid α-chaconine synthesized in potato tubers and leaves. The reduction of biological activity has been achieved by one or more of the following approaches: inhibition of the release of the toxin into the environment, especially food; an alteration of the structural integrity of the toxin molecules; changes in the optimum microenvironment, especially pH, for toxin activity; and protection against adverse effects of the toxins in cells, animals, and humans (chemoprevention). The results show that food-compatible and safe compounds with anti-toxin properties can be used to reduce the toxic potential of these toxins. Practical applications and research needs are suggested that may further facilitate reducing the toxic burden of the diet. Researchers are challenged to (a) apply the available methods without adversely affecting the nutritional quality, safety, and sensory attributes of animal feed and human food and (b) educate food producers and processors and the public about available approaches to mitigating the undesirable effects of natural toxins that may present in the diet.