The mycotoxin issue
Mycotoxins are low-molecular-weight, secondary metabolites of fungi which are toxic to animals and humans even in low concentrations. Their occurrence in various food crops is of major concern since it has significant implications for food and feed safety, food security and international trade.
The occurrence of fungal and subsequently mycotoxin contamination in various food crops is of major concern since it has significant implications for food and feed safety, food security and international trade. Mycotoxins are low-molecular-weight, secondary metabolites of microscopic filamentous fungi which are toxic to animals and humans even in low concentrations. These toxins enter the food and feed chains via infected crops that are either directly consumed by humans or indirectly ingested as a consequence of crops as an animal feed ingredient. Mycotoxins have been linked to human oesophageal cancer, equine leukoencephalomalacia, toxic feed syndrome in poultry, and pulmonary edema in pigs. In recent years, research on cumulative risks, exposure, and long-term effects has raised awareness for the control and reduction of such health risks and the sale and use of foods containing mycotoxin is under strict regulatory controls.
In 2014, the majority of EU's RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) rejections were due to mycotoxin contamination that exceeded the regulatory limits. Grain and foods based on these grains (e.g. pasta, bread, bakery products) account for the largest contribution to mycotoxin exposure in all age classes of the EU population, in particular due to the mycotoxins produced by Fusarium spp. (deoxynivalenol [DON], T-2/HT-2 toxins, zearalenone [ZEN], ochratoxin A [OTA] and fumonisins).
The RASFF notification system also reveals that among the susceptible fruit imported into the EU, the commodity with the highest risk for aflatoxin contamination was dried figs. In addition, over the last five years RASFF reported 292 alerts relating to aflatoxin levels exceeding legal limits in peanuts imported from China.