Mycotoxins are toxic compounds that are sometimes found as contaminants in food due to molds. They can be transferred through the food chain and may appear as contaminants in fruits, grains, crops, and any food products produced from these items, such as juices or cereals. Mycotoxins have a negative impact on human health as they can be carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and toxic to the endocrine and immune systems.
In some cases it may be possible to decontaminate food where mycotoxins are present. However, there are various restrictions worldwide on what processes may be used and there are limitations to the effectiveness of these methods. New decontamination methods, such as the exposure to cold atmospheric pressure plasma, are currently under development.
Due to personal choice and cultural differences in preferences of food, it is also difficult to set a safe and acceptable level of allowable contamination in the first place. Typically, the mycotoxins found with the lowest levels of acceptability set by many authorities are aflatoxins and ochratoxin, with limits in the single ppb range. However, each country sets its own limits.
Alternatively, Osteresch et al promote the idea of each individual’s exposure being assessed through a physiological sampling. They have recently developed a method to test dried blood spots or dried serum spots for 27 different mycotoxins in a single analysis. Samples can easily be collected by a minimally invasive method, generally by heel, ear, or finger pricking followed by spotting onto a filter paper card. By using individual biomonitoring, better understanding of human health impacts can be gained in the long run.
The data produced by a human biomonitoring program can provide insights not only to our individual and collective exposure but also to how that exposure may change over time. In addition, the long-term effects of consistent low-level exposure can be reassessed alongside environmental datasets to give us better insights on the risks to human health of exposures to these compounds.
Many mycotoxins, including ochratoxin and several of the aflatoxins are available at LKT Labs to be used as reference standards.
A2054 Aflatoxin M2
Mycotoxin Decontamination of Food: Cold Atmospheric Pressure Plasma versus “Classic” Decontamination. Toxins (Basel). 2017 Apr 28;9(5). PMID: 28452957
Multi-mycotoxin analysis using dried blood spots and dried serum spots. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2017 May;409(13):3369-3382. PMID: 28299415