Study shows mold-related toxin in some oat cereals; pet food

Cereal_resizedMycotoxins are making headlines once again, as high concentrations of the mold toxins have been found in certain types of pet and human foods.

A lawsuit filed earlier this month is alleging that thousand of dogs may have been poisoned by pet food containing mycotoxins, which can grow on grains and can cause poisoning when ingested at high levels. Even more recently, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry states that another mycotoxin, known as ochratoxin A, was detected in several grain-based breakfast cereals examined in the study.

According to one article, throughout a period of two years, researchers tested 489 samples of grain-based cereals from seven different markets across the country, looking for the presence of ochratoxin A (OCA), which is “considered to be a potent renal carcinogen.” OCA has also demonstrated neurotoxic and immunosuppressant effects, and is suspected as a trigger for autism, especially in males.

The European Union has set maximum limits for OCA in food, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not currently impose any limits on OCA content in food products.

That being said, the study found that of the 489 samples, 205, or 42%, showed OCA contamination, though almost all of them were well below the European Commission Regulations of 3 nanograms per gram, or roughly 3 parts per billion.

According to the article, only 16 samples, all oat-based, were above the European threshold. In fact, the study found that oat-based cereals contained the highest OCA contamination, at 70%. It was followed by wheat-based cereals, at 32%, and then corn and rice-based cereal, both at 15%.

Produced mainly by two different fungi, Aspergillus ochraceus and Penicillium verrucosum, OCA only needs the right combination of high moisture and temperature to occur and can be produced on grains in both the field and during storage. OCA however, is not only limited to grains and can be found in other commodities including coffee, grapes, wine, pork, and more, making it an important toxin to test for in the food industry.

As stated in the article, comparisons between this study and others like it, also show that there is little difference between conventional and organic samples, as both appear to be equally as susceptible to contamination.

“We tested all products/commodities that may be contaminated with the toxin including infant cereal, dried fruits, beer, wine, coffee, etc.,” Dojin Ryu, one of the authors of the study said in the article. “It would take another year to assess the data and to say if there is any health risk for the public,” he continued.

For more information on Neogen’s food safety testing solutions for mycotoxins, click here.

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