Regular monitoring of cereal based foods for trichothecenes urged

By Jane Byrne

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Continual monitoring of cereal based foods for trichothecenes is urged by researchers that noted high incidence of deoxynivalenol (DON) presence in bread, pasta and breakfast cereal products in Spain even though the majority detected were below EU limits.

The authors claim that their study, published in the journal Food Control, ​is the widest study to assess the occurrence of the mycotoxins type - trichothecenes - in cereal based foods in Spain to date.

Mycotoxins are naturally occurring chemicals produced by moulds growing on foodstuffs, including rice. A number of mycotoxins are genotoxic carcinogens, which means they can cause cancer by damaging genetic material.

The major effects of trichothecenes are vomiting and immuno-suppression.

The toxicity of T-2 and HT-2 was evaluated by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) in 2001. It was considered to be significantly higher than other Fusarium ​mycotoxins such as DON, on the basis of their general toxicity, hematoxicity and immunotoxicity.

This had lead to the establishment of a temporary tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 0.06 micrograms per kg of body weight per day for T-2 and HT-2 combined.

Concerning DON, a tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 1 microgram per kg of body weight per day body weight was established by the SCF in 2002.

The study

The researchers explained that they assessed 479 food samples taken from the food products most susceptible to trichothecenes contamination and most commonly consumed in the region of Catalonia such as wheat flakes, corn flakes, corn snacks, pasta and bread.

DON, T2 and HT2 toxin were determined in breakfast cereals, snacks and pasta samples following extraction, clean–up, derivatization and finally analysis by GC-ECD. Moreover, these mycotoxins were determined in sliced bread, sweet corn and beer by LC-DAD.

"Our results showed that DON was the main trichothecene present in the cereal-based food from Catalonian market with percentages of positive samples ranging from 1.4 to 100 per cent,"​ found the team.

“Despite the high incidence of DON, only five samples were above EU limits,”​ they added.

The HT2 toxin, found the researchers, was present in a low percentage of samples of sliced bread (15.3 per cent), wheat flakes (14.8 per cent), pasta (10 per cent), corn snacks (8.5 per cent), sweet corn (6.9 per cent) and corn flakes (6.2 per cent), while the T2 toxin only was quantified in five samples out of the total 479.

Previous research, note the scientists, that was undertaken to assess the occurrence of the trichothecenes DON in food products in Spain found lower levels of positive samples that this research work.

And, although no worrying values have been found in this study for the trichothecene types DON, T2 and HT2, the annual variability noted for the levels of these trichothecenes types in crops calls for the regular monitoring of food products for detection of their presence, concluded the scientists involved.

Aflatoxin threat

In June this year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) launched a project to predict how climate change could increase the amount of aflatoxin B1 in cereals.

Aflatoxin B1 is a mycotoxin produced by moulds which grow on certain cereals including maize, wheat and rice. It is particularly prevalent in hot and humid climates and is carcinogenic.

As temperatures rise aflatoxin B1 could become a more significant danger in the EU, so the EFSA has launched a project to help evaluate the risk. Using different climate change scenarios, it will gather and analyse data on aflatoxin B1 in order to predict potential future contamination of cereal crops.

The agency said the research will help to inform its future work in the area and give an indication of potential food contamination issues related to climate change and mycotoxins.

The project is being run by EFSA’s Emerging Risks Unit, which spokesperson Andrew Cutting said had identified aflatoxin B1 in cereals as a potential area of concern in light of climate change.

Source: Food Control
Published online ahead of print: doi:10.1016/j.foodcont.2010.09.033
Title: Presence of trichothecenes and co-occurrence in cereal-based food from Catalonia (Spain)
Authors: G. Cano-Sancho et al

Related topics Regulation, policy & food safety

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