Mycotoxins are extremely small fungal toxins that can contaminate foods and lead to food safety risks.Mycotoxins can cause health hazards for man and animals alike so there is a need to test raw materials in food testing laboratories before they are processed such as grains, nuts and seeds. Fungal moulds are a common occurrence in humid climate and can be found in the field or in storage. In food processing it is important to test for mycotoxins because they cannot be destroyed by conventional food processing. The chemical testing laboratory must have the know-how in testing for mycotoxins as analytical methods are limited. If foods are being exported then the presence of mycotoxins can lead to produce rejection for not meet regulatory limits.
Mycotoxins have become a food safety risk because if foods contain high levels of mycotoxins then it can lead to kidney and liver problems. Mycotoxins like aflatoxinB1 fumonisinsandpatulin are suspected human carcinogens and can even cause neural tube defects and so food testing is vital. The effects of low-level or high level or long term exposure to mycotoxins are not fully known so detecting them through food testing labs is important. Apple juice often gets contaminated with patulinfood testing laboratories analyse the juice to ensure there is no patulin contamination.
Aflatoxin is the most common and widely known mycotoxin contaminant which affects nuts, groundnuts, tree nuts such as pistachio and Brazil nuts, cottonseed, copra, rice, maize, wheat, sorghum, pulses figs and oilseed cakes. Unrefined vegetable oils may contain aflatoxins if it has been made with contaminated seeds or nuts but they are destroyed in the refining process so refined oils are safe.Ochratoxin A is usually found in wheat, corn, and oats that are inflicted with fungus and it can also reach cheese and meat products from animals that have consumed grains that are contaminated with this mycotoxin.A. ochraceus can be found in dry foods like soybeans, nuts, and dried fruit. A. carbonariuson the other hand can contaminate grapes and grape product including raisins, wines, and wine vinegars. Therefore, food testing laboratories examine a large variety of mycotoxins in food as well as animal feed.
Testing for mycotoxins
If the concentrations of mycotoxinsare high then it is difficult to get accurate estimates as testing laboratories use a sampling plan that measures only small amounts. Mycotoxinshave different chemical compounds but about 25 mycotoxinsoccur frequently and chemical testing laboratories understand this. Mycotoxin test procedure begins with taking a sample of a given size from the lot, which is then ground and a sub-sample is taken from the ground sample. The mycotoxin is then extracted and quantified. This testing method verifies the presence of mycotoxins.Food testing laboratories do not just analyse grains where mould has appeared, because some mycotoxins do not show visible signs of mould. These testing laboratories also do chemical testing to ensure products are toxicologically safe.