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Mycotoxins: about what you can’t see in food

Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced under certain conditions by many mould species. They can cause acute poisoning, but also exhibit carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic and estrogenic properties.

The optimum temperature at which mycotoxins form oscillates between 20-25 °C. Mycotoxins are the most often consumed with infected food, toxinogenic moulds can also multiply in buildings.

Mycotoxins can occur at any stage of food production, from field cultivation to handling, transport and storage. They are produced by many types of moulds – mainly Aspergillus, Penicilium and Fusarium, in different climate zones and it is almost impossible to avoid their presence.

This process is particularly intense in the tropics due to the warm and humid climate.

Aflatoxins marked with symbols B1, B2, G1 and G2, can cause liver diseases in humans and animals. They are formed especially in conditions of high humidity and high temperature. Under the same conditions, the most contaminating mycotoxin M1 is found in milk, which is the metabolite of aflatoxin B1. Due to its occurrence, it causes higher exposure to this toxin of infants and small children than to adults.

Patulin is a toxin that is particularly dangerous for children. It attacks the digestive tract, causing, among other things, ulcers. Patulin itself is produced by many species of moulds, which develop mainly on fruits and vegetables. The most common threat here is posed by juices and apple preserves.

Ochratoxin A is found in all cereals, under different climatic conditions, as well as in soya beans, beans, coffee and cocoa beans, grape juice, spices, herbs and dried fruit. It is carcinogenic. It also causes kidney and fetal damage.

Zearalenone present in feeds despite its low toxicity, administered over a longer period of time to animals, causes infertility and other related diseases.

Fusarium toxins occur in beer, walnuts, soya, cereals and maize.

We list here only a few selected types of mycotoxins, which are most frequently tested. Unfortunately the list of harmful substances in food is much longer. You can read more about this here:

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mycotoxins

https://foodfakty.pl/raport-tygodniowy-rasff-3-9-08-2020

https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/rasff_en

https://www.intechopen.com/online-first/mycotoxins-the-hidden-danger-in-foods

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