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Innovation against fungal toxins for safer food
EU-funded research to reduce poisonous mycotoxins in agricultural produce has led to tests and services for safer food and feed. A follow-on project is developing a decision-support tool to help farmers and SMEs reduce contamination throughout the supply chain.
© Christian Jung - fotolia.com
Update: 17 November 2017
Mycotoxins are potentially deadly fungi that infest food and feed crops, harming humans and animals and causing losses for farmers and food processors. In the MYCORED project, researchers developed production and processing methods that reduce mycotoxin contamination in common cereal, nuts and fruit crops.
Methods focused on new food production and handling procedures from field to market. Researchers identified points in food chains where there was a risk of contamination and then designed measures to reduce these risks.
Innovations for crops in the field include mycotoxin-resistant plants, improved fungicide use, and biological control agents bacteria, safe fungi and yeast that avoid the need for chemicals. Post-harvest technologies used ozone gas and natural antifungal compounds, atmospheric sensors and chemical tests to detect infestation and light waves to limit fungal growth.
The project had a significant impact on the scientific international community as well as stakeholders, policymakers and industry, says project coordinator Antonio Logrieco of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy.
Some of its results have been used to develop and validate mycotoxin detection kits and official methods for mycotoxin analysis, he says.
“We also now have agreements with feed companies for mycotoxin detoxifying agents and with the US international development agency (USAID) for mycotoxin analysis of samples from Afghanistan and Nepal.”
The follow-on H2020 project, MYCOKEY, is developing an app to help farmers, SMEs and other stakeholders prevent and remove mycotoxin contamination, says Logrieco.
“It will integrate innovative key actions into a user-friendly, cheap application that provides real-time information and suggestions for mycotoxin management.”
Other studies linked to MYCORED are investigating new methods of preventing contamination of food and feed during processing and storage, he adds.
In addition, new sustainable technologies inspired by MYCORED’s outcomes are being developed by project partners and others to monitor toxigenic fungi, analyse and prevent mycotoxin contamination and risk, and remove infection, he says.