The research performed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) spanned 2,183 food samples and investigated levels of aflatoxins B1, B2, G1 and G2.
Findings showed that only six cereals and milling products samples were above the maximum level of 4 microgram/kg (µg/kg) and just two breakfast cereal samples.
Aflatoxins and health risks
Aflatoxins, most commonly found in cereals, are toxic secondary metabolites that are genotoxic and carcinogenic. They can cause both acute and chronic toxicity in humans and therefore exposure through food should be kept as low as possible.
The European Commission (EC) has set maximum safety limits of aflatoxins B1, B2, G1, G2 and M1 in cereals and cereal-derived products at 4 µg/kg. Rice and maize are the exception, with maximum limits set at 10 µg/kg.
Most of the samples reported low Limit of Detection (LOD) - ranging from 0.01 to 0.7 µg/kg and from 0.01 µg/kg and low Limit of Quantification (LOQ) – from 0.01 µg/kg to 1.1 µg/kg.
Out of 1,341 samples of cereals and their milling products available with data, the six samples containing aflatoxins above the maximum limit were rice (3), buckwheat grain (2) and a corn milling sample.
The two samples of breakfast cereals with higher aflatoxins levels were found among 842 qualified samples.
Data on 2,183 food samples was retrieved from the EFSA chemical occurrence database on March 15. The samples were collected between 2007 and 2012, with more than half collected between 2010 and 2011.
Sampling was carried out in 16 different European countries; Germany was the most represented, followed by Austria and Slovenia.
The full technical paper can be found here.