Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

EU Reference Laboratory for mycotoxins: washing immunoaffinity column

EU Reference Laboratory for mycotoxins: washing immunoaffinity column

JRC analytical methods to measure mycotoxins in infant food become CEN standards


The European Committee for Standardization, CEN, has adopted two analytical methods developed by the JRC's Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements to measure the levels of mycotoxins in infant food.

Mycotoxins are toxic contaminants produced by fungi. These toxins can enter in the food chain as a result of crops infected by fungi, either by being directly consumed by humans, or by being used as livestock feed for animals. Strikingly, mycotoxins are extremely resistant to processing, and even to temperature treatments. Analytical methods were developed to measure aflatoxin B1 and zearalenone mycotoxins in cereal products for infants and young children. These methods, established under the leadership of Dr. J. Stroka of the EU Reference Laboratory for Mycotoxins at JRC-IRMM, were adopted by CEN as European standards with an entry into force as national standards at the latest by October 2010.

Speaking on the occasion of World Standards Day 2010, the Director of JRC-IRMM, Krzysztof Maruszewski, said, "The adoption of these two methods as international standards will enable laboratories around the world to measure mycotoxin levels in infant food in a harmonised manner, helping to ensure the access to safe and healthy foodstuffs for one of society's most vulnerable groups."

Dietary aflatoxins are of worldwide concern due to their toxicity. Aflatoxins are common contaminants of cereals and nuts, and aflatoxin B1 is the most frequent type present in contaminated samples (60-80% of the total aflatoxin content). Aflatoxin B1 has a carcinogenic effect on the liver, according to very extensive toxicology assessments carried out by bodies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Because of their relatively high intake of certain foodstuffs compared to their body weight, infants and young children are more vulnerable than adults to many toxins. For this reason, European legislation stipulates lower maximum limits for certain foods intended for infants and young children.

The JRC-IRMM supports such legislation by producing and disseminating internationally accepted quality-assurance tools. International standards play a key role in this effort. JRC-IRMM experts are embedded in numerous committees and working groups, and many testing methods validated by JRC have been adopted as international standards.

World Standards Day is celebrated internationally each year on 14 October. The day honours the efforts of the thousands of experts who develop voluntary standards within standards development organisations. The aim of World Standards Day is to raise awareness among regulators, industry and consumers of the importance of standardisation to the global economy.