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Mycotoxin control in cereals: safeguarding food

Mycotoxin control in cereals: safeguarding food

Mycotoxins are a threat to cereal production worldwide, including oats and barley. This research looked at the prevalence of certain mycotoxins and current approaches to their measurement and control.

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The island of Ireland is an important producer of oats and barley, and while some of the output is used for animal feed, a significant proportion is used in the food and beverage industries. Contamination of cereals with fungal pathogens is a growing problem worldwide, as these produce mycotoxins that have serious implications for human and animal health.

This research reviewed current rapid screening methods for the mycotoxin T-2 and its metabolites in cereals for human consumption. Four rapid test kits were assessed against LC-MS/MS for this purpose.

The prevalence of T-2 toxin and three other mycotoxins was investigated in oats and to a lesser extent barley. Overall, 35% of all oat samples were contaminated with more than one mycotoxin. In 16% of unprocessed oat samples, T-2+HT-2 levels combined exceed current EU legislative limits. No exceedances were recorded for processed oat samples. The limits for ochratoxin A were exceeded in 3% and 6% of unprocessed and processed oat samples, respectively, probably indicative of storage problems.

If current regulatory limits for T-2 and its metabolites are lowered, this will impact industry efforts to monitor and mitigate against these contaminants. A Mycotoxin Sampling Protocol was drawn up and is available to the industry to assist them with their mycotoxin sampling regime.

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