What measures against mycotoxin infestations exist?
In some cases, the infected cereal grains can be sorted out. This is the case for example with ergot (the ergotamin contained within is one of the most acutely dangerous fungal toxins), which can be removed in the mill. This is possible because the infected cereal grains are altered in both their shape and their colour by the fungus.
This is mostly not possible for other fungi.
Decontamination by heat treatment is also not possible because mycotoxins are largely heat-stable.
What should be observed in the determination of mycotoxins?
There is no direct correlation between the amount of mould and the amount of mycotoxins. The contamination cannot therefore be estimated optically.
Generally, distribution in the product is irregular. A representative sampling process is therefore particularly important.
The samples are extracted using organic solvents. The fungal poisons will be dissolved out of the product being investigated by the solvents. This process is used to remove interfering substances and for concentration of the analytes.
Chromatographic separation is then performed using HPLC. The individual substances are then identified and quantified by performing a comparison of their retention time with that of reference substances or by using MS/MS.
Dangers for humans?
Depending on the type of toxin, mycotoxins are either acutely or chronically active (carcinogens, oestrogen or teratogenic). As they occur in almost all staple foods, the risk of chronic injury from the regular consumption of infected foodstuffs is particularly high.
In the past few years, the fusarium toxins fumonisin and deoxynivalenol have been increasingly monitored, as after studies of nutrition have been performed, it has been determined that the tolerable daily intake (TDI) in children is being reached and to some extent is being exceeded. Fumonisin occurs primarily in maize but is also present in wheat. Wheat on the other hand is primarily infected with deoxynivalenol. The risks from ochratoxin A have also been underestimated for a long time: it can currently be detected in almost all blood samples taken from the population.