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Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins

Information about various mycotoxins and the legislation related to them.

  • Aflatoxins

    Aflatoxins are produced primarily by two species of the Aspergillus fungus which are especially found in areas with hot, humid climates. A. flavus is ubiquitous, favouring the aerial parts of plants (leaves, flowers) and produces B aflatoxins. A. parasiticus produces both B and G aflatoxins, is more adapted to a soil environment and has more limited distribution. In addition, these fungi also form other substances such as aflatoxicol and sterigmatocystin.

    Aflatoxins are found in food as a result of fungal contamination both pre- and post-harvest, with the rate and degree of contamination dependent on temperature, humidity, soil and storage conditions. Aflatoxins are most commonly associated with groundnuts, tree nuts, dried fruit, spices, figs, crude vegetable oils, cocoa beans, maize, rice, cottonseed and copra. Aflatoxin M1 is a major metabolite of aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) in humans and animals and may be present in milk from animals fed on AFB1 contaminated feed. Exposure to aflatoxins is generally considered to occur mainly from imported materials, however, climate change is anticipated to impact the presence of aflatoxins in food in Europe.

  • Ochratoxin A

    Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a mycotoxin produced by several fungal species of the genera Penicillium and Aspergillus, which can contaminate food commodities prior to harvest or more commonly during storage. OTA contamination of food commodities, including cereals and cereal products, pulses, coffee, beer, grape juice, dry vine fruits, wine, cacao products, nuts and spices, amongst others, has been reported.

    Regulatory Information

    EU Legislation

    Contaminants Framework Regulation: Regulation No. 315/93/EECas amended

    Contaminants Legislation setting MLs: Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 , as amended

    Sampling & Analysis Regulation: Regulation (EC) No. 401/2006as amended

    Available EU guidance documents:

    • Guidance document on Identification of Mycotoxins in Food and Feed (supplements the "Specific requirements for confirmatory methods" from Annex II of Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006)

    Increased Control Measures: For potentially applicable emergency measures and temporary increased controls, please see the import controls' page.

    National Legislation

    S.I. No. 218 of 2010 as amended (S.I. No. 276 of 2012S.I. No. 348 of 2012S.I. No. 380 of 2013S.I. No. 143 of 2014S.I. No. 329 of 2016S.I. No. 377 of 2017)

  • Patulin

    Patulin is a mycotoxin produced by a number of fungal species in the genera Penicillium, Aspergillus and Byssochlamys of which Penicillium expansum is probably the most commonly encountered species. Patulin has been found as a contaminant in many mouldy fruits, vegetables, cereals and other foods, however, the major sources of contamination are apples and apple products.

    Regulatory Information

    EU Legislation

    Contaminants Framework Regulation: Regulation No. 315/93/EECas amended

    Contaminants Legislation setting MLs: Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 , as amended

    Sampling & Analysis Regulation: Regulation (EC) No. 401/2006as amended

    Available EU guidance documents:

    • Commission Recommendation 2003/598/EC on the prevention and reduction of patulin contamination in apple juice and apple juice ingredients in other beverages
    • Guidance document on Identification of Mycotoxins in Food and Feed (supplements the "Specific requirements for confirmatory methods" from Annex II of Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006)

    Increased Control Measures: For potentially applicable emergency measures and temporary increased controls, please see the import controls' page.

    National Legislation

    S.I. No. 218 of 2010 as amended (S.I. No. 276 of 2012S.I. No. 348 of 2012S.I. No. 380 of 2013S.I. No. 143 of 2014S.I. No. 329 of 2016S.I. No. 377 of 2017)

  • Deoxynivalenol

    Deoxynivalenol (DON) belongs to the large group of mycotoxins called trichothecenes, which represent the main group of Fusarium toxins. DON is predominantly produced by the plant pathogenic fungi of the Fusarium genus, mainly by Fusarium graminearum and Fusarium culmorum. These fungi grow on the cereals in the field, preferably at temperate climates and are commonly found in Europe. Crop infection by Fusarium is dependent on the weather and is favoured by high humidity at the time of flowering.

    Cereal grains intended for food may also become contaminated during storage. DON is chemically stable and to some extent resistant to thermal processing. As a result, DON is found in cereal-based foods ready for consumption. DON occurs predominantly in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, oats, rye and maize. During milling, DON is expected to concentrate in the fractions containing the outer parts of the grain. Thus, the highest levels of DON are observed, for example, in the germ and bran while the flour contain lower levels than those found in the grain before dry milling.

    DON can co-occur in grains and in cereal-based food together with its acetyl derivatives; 3-acetyl deoxynivalenol (3-Ac-DON), 15-acetyl deoxynivalenol (15-Ac-DON) and 3,15-diacetyl-deoxynivalenol (3,15-Ac-DON). Both DON and its acetylated forms are produced by fungi such as F. graminearum and F. culmorum and are therefore regarded as free or unmodified mycotoxins. DON-3-glucoside, the main plant metabolite of DON, is considered to be a masked mycotoxin and has been detected in cereal grains and cereal-based products. DON-3-glucoside is an example of detoxification by glycosylation in the plant, whereby glycosylation converts DON into a glucoside which is regarded as non-toxic for plants.

    Regulatory Information

    EU Legislation

    Contaminants Framework Regulation: Regulation No. 315/93/EECas amended

    Contaminants Legislation setting MLs: Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 , as amended

    Sampling & Analysis Regulation: Regulation (EC) No. 401/2006as amended

    Available EU guidance documents:

    • Commission Recommendation (EC) 2006/583 on the prevention and reduction of Fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal products
    • Guidance document on Identification of Mycotoxins in Food and Feed (supplements the "Specific requirements for confirmatory methods" from Annex II of Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006)

    Increased Control Measures: For potentially applicable emergency measures and temporary increased controls, please see the import controls' page.

    National Legislation

    S.I. No. 218 of 2010 as amended (S.I. No. 276 of 2012S.I. No. 348 of 2012S.I. No. 380 of 2013S.I. No. 143 of 2014S.I. No. 329 of 2016S.I. No. 377 of 2017)

  • Zearalenone

    Zearalenone (ZEN) is a mycotoxin produced by several Fusarium species, particularly F. graminearum. It is commonly found in maize but can also be found in other crops such as wheat, barley, sorghum and rye. Generally, the Fusarium species grow and invade crops in cool, moist field conditions. Modified forms of ZEN exist which are metabolites formed in plants, fungi and animals by phase I (oxidation/reduction) and phase II (conjugation) metabolism. Modified forms may add from a few up to 100% relative to ZEN. The modified form, α-Zearalenol (α-ZEL), has been deemed to be more potent (~60 times) than ZEN.

    Regulatory Information

    EU Legislation

    Contaminants Framework Regulation: Regulation No. 315/93/EECas amended

    Contaminants Legislation setting MLs: Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 , as amended

    Sampling & Analysis Regulation: Regulation (EC) No. 401/2006as amended

    Available EU guidance documents:

    • Commission Recommendation (EC) 2006/583 on the prevention and reduction of Fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal products
    • Guidance document on Identification of Mycotoxins in Food and Feed (supplements the "Specific requirements for confirmatory methods" from Annex II of Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006)

    Increased Control Measures: For potentially applicable emergency measures and temporary increased controls, please see the import controls' page.

    National Legislation

    S.I. No. 218 of 2010 as amended (S.I. No. 276 of 2012S.I. No. 348 of 2012S.I. No. 380 of 2013S.I. No. 143 of 2014S.I. No. 329 of 2016S.I. No. 377 of 2017)

  • Fumonisins

    Fumonisins are mycotoxins produced predominantly by Fusarium verticillioides and Fusarium proliferatum. The most relevant compounds are the B-type fumonisins FB1-FB4. Besides the B-type fumonisins, other fumonisins such as the A-, C- and P-type have been described. However, these compounds are produced in much lower levels and for this reason are not of significance. Modified forms of fumonisins, such as phase I and phase II metabolites formed in fungi, infested plants or farm animals, also exist. Modified forms of fumonisins have a similar toxicological profile but are less potent than FB1. The occurrence of fumonisins is well documented in maize and maize products.

    Regulatory Information

    EU Legislation

    Contaminants Framework Regulation: Regulation No. 315/93/EECas amended

    Contaminants Legislation setting MLs: Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 , as amended

    Sampling & Analysis Regulation: Regulation (EC) No. 401/2006as amended

    Available EU guidance documents:

    • Commission Recommendation (EC) 2006/583 on the prevention and reduction of Fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal products
    • Guidance document on Identification of Mycotoxins in Food and Feed (supplements the "Specific requirements for confirmatory methods" from Annex II of Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006)

    Increased Control Measures: For potentially applicable emergency measures and temporary increased controls, please see the import controls' page.

    National Legislation

    S.I. No. 218 of 2010 as amended (S.I. No. 276 of 2012S.I. No. 348 of 2012S.I. No. 380 of 2013S.I. No. 143 of 2014S.I. No. 329 of 2016S.I. No. 377 of 2017)

  • T-2 and HT-2 toxin

    T-2 and HT-2 are members of the type A group trichothecenes, which are produced by many Fusarium species infesting crop plants. Fusarium fungi are commonly found on cereals grown in temperate regions, such as Europe, and may produce these toxins under moist and cool conditions. HT-2 is a metabolite of T-2. The toxins are mostly attached to the outer hull of the grain, and therefore occur at much higher concentrations in bran and germ fractions.

    Modified forms of mycotoxins comprise all biologically, chemically and physically modified derivatives of the parent molecule, which are formed in the fungus, infested plant and mammalian organism. Modified mycotoxins include phase I metabolites formed through oxidation, reduction or hydrolysis of the parent toxin, as well as phase II metabolites arising from conjugation with endogenous molecules. As conjugates may be hydrolysed in the digestive tract, releasing the parent toxin, phase II metabolites are of importance for the risk assessment of mycotoxins. Numerous phase I and phase II metabolites of T-2 and HT-2 have been identified. There are few occurrence data on modified forms of T-2 and HT-2, mainly conjugates, with grain products being their main source. Highest concentrations of T-2 and HT-2 toxins can be found in grains and grain milling products, notably in oats and oat products.

    Regulatory Information

    EU Legislation

    Contaminants Framework Regulation: Regulation No. 315/93/EECas amended

    Contaminants Legislation setting MLs: Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006as amended

    Monitoring Recommendation: Commission Recommendation (EU) 2013/165

    Sampling & Analysis Regulation: Regulation (EC) No. 401/2006as amended

    Available EU guidance documents:

    • Commission Recommendation (EC) 2006/583 on the prevention and reduction of Fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal products
    • Guidance on the application of Commission Recommendation 2013/165/EU
    • Guidance document on Identification of Mycotoxins in Food and Feed (supplements the "Specific requirements for confirmatory methods" from Annex II of Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006)

    Increased Control Measures: For potentially applicable emergency measures and temporary increased controls, please see the import controls' page.

    National Legislation

    S.I. No. 218 of 2010 as amended (S.I. No. 276 of 2012S.I. No. 348 of 2012S.I. No. 380 of 2013S.I. No. 143 of 2014S.I. No. 329 of 2016S.I. No. 377 of 2017)

  • Citrinin

    Citrinin is a mycotoxin produced by several species of the genera Aspergillus, Penicillium and Monascus. Citrinin is generally formed after harvest under storage conditions and it occurs mainly in grains but can also occur in other products of plant origin e.g. beans, fruits, fruit and vegetable juices, herbs and spices and also in spoiled dairy products. Citrinin is known to occur also as an undesirable contaminant in Monascus fermentation products (generally described as red yeast rice), which have been used in Asia for centuries for meat preservation and food colouring. Co-occurrence of citrinin with other mycotoxins has been observed in food, especially with ochratoxin A in grains and grain-based products, and with patulin in fruits and fruit and vegetable juices.

    Regulatory Information

    EU Legislation

    Contaminants Framework Regulation: Regulation No. 315/93/EECas amended

    Contaminants Legislation setting MLs: Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 , as amended

    Sampling & Analysis Regulation: Regulation (EC) No. 401/2006as amended

    Available EU guidance documents:

    • Guidance document on Identification of Mycotoxins in Food and Feed (supplements the "Specific requirements for confirmatory methods" from Annex II of Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006)

    Increased Control Measures: For potentially applicable emergency measures and temporary increased controls, please see the import controls' page.

    National Legislation

    S.I. No. 218 of 2010 as amended (S.I. No. 276 of 2012S.I. No. 348 of 2012S.I. No. 380 of 2013S.I. No. 143 of 2014S.I. No. 329 of 2016S.I. No. 377 of 2017)

  • Ergot sclerotia and ergot alkaloids

    Ergot alkaloids (EAs; mycotoxins) and Ergot sclerotia (visible, dark infestation of cereal tip) are produced by fungal species such as Claviceps purpurea, which can infest grains like rye, barley, spelt, oat and wheat. In Europe, Claviceps purpurea is the most widespread and has been traditionally associated with rye. The presence of ergot sclerotia is considered a good indicator for the presence of EAs in grain samples, however, the absence of sclerotia does not exclude the presence of EAs. The current focus is on the following EAs: ergometrine, ergosine, ergocornine, ergotamine, ergocristine, ergocryptine (α- and β-form) and their corresponding -inine forms.

    Regulatory Information

    EU Legislation

    Contaminants Framework Regulation: Regulation No. 315/93/EECas amended

    Contaminants Legislation setting MLs: Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 , as amended

    Monitoring Recommendation: Commission Recommendation (EU) 2012/154

    Sampling & Analysis Regulation: Regulation (EC) No. 401/2006as amended

    Available EU guidance documents:

    • Guidance document on Identification of Mycotoxins in Food and Feed (supplements the "Specific requirements for confirmatory methods" from Annex II of Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006)

    Increased Control Measures: For potentially applicable emergency measures and temporary increased controls, please see the import controls' page.

    National Legislation

    S.I. No. 218 of 2010 as amended (S.I. No. 276 of 2012S.I. No. 348 of 2012S.I. No. 380 of 2013S.I. No. 143 of 2014S.I. No. 329 of 2016S.I. No. 377 of 2017)