Mycotoxins are naturally-occurring chemicals produced by certain fungi which are known to cause health problems. They can occur in a range of foods, including cereals, nuts, spices, fruit, coffee, milk and alcoholic beverages, and at any stage throughout the food-chain.
The UK food watchdog revealed that 97 per cent of 220 samples analysed contained acceptable levels of mycotoxins that were within safety limits laid down by the European Union.
Only seven samples – just 3 per cent – were discovered to have mycotoxins above the legal EU limits and “in most cases these levels were only marginally above the limit”, said the FSA report.
The mycotoxins covered in the survey included aflatoxins, ochratoxin A (OTA), fumonisins, zearalenone (ZON) and the trichothecenes, including deoxynivalenol (DON) and T2 and HT2 toxins.
The findings revealed that mycotoxin levels in cereals and cereal-based foods in the UK “did not pose a significant risk to health”, said the food safety body.
Where excess levels were discovered, the FSA launched investigations to ensure that these foods were withdrawn from the market. The European Commission and other member states were also informed so that they could take any necessary action, confirmed the body.
The research, carried out by the agency’s Chemical Safety Division, are the first results of a four-year rolling surveillance programme to quantify a number of mycotoxins in a variety of foods.
“With the current knowledge and agricultural practices the provision of mycotoxin free cereals is not possible,” said the report.
The survey provides an accurate picture on mycotoxin levels in UK cereals and helps the FSA provide the appropriate consumer protection and minimise risk from the contaminants, it added.
It concluded: “The results from this survey do not raise any significant concerns for consumer health in the UK.”
To read the full report click HERE