Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by moulds as a result of growth in foods and feed. There are about 20 mycotoxins occurring naturally in food and feeds. As trace amounts of these can present a substantial health hazard for both animals and humans specific regulations are put in place (e.g. 98/1525/EC). It is worth observing that the levels set for e.g. aflatoxins in food in the EU are stricter than in other parts of the world. A cause of concern was noted earlier in 1999 when a survey in the UK for ochratoxin A in a number products reported that 95% of samples of dried vine fruit analysed contained this toxin. A great deal of excellent research has been carried out on mycotoxins in food up to now. To fully maximise the benefits that this work can bring, the research needs to be communicated to industry in a comprehensible form. There remains much scope for creating a better understanding of the problems caused by mycotoxins, particularly within SMEs.
The primary objective of the network is the establishment of communication links between individuals, businesses and organisations who are affected in any way by mycotoxin-related issues. These may be SMEs, trade organisations, consumer groups, large multi-national food producers, research workers (both in industry and academia), policy makers, governments and law enforcement agencies. An important part of the network is the establishment of an interactive web-site, updated on a regular basis, and an e-mail mailing list to alert interested parties to the activities of the network. These activities include workshops/conferences, production of fact sheets (to disseminate information on mycotoxin related discoveries, innovations and developments), on-line training courses, and biannual newsletters. The final objective of the network is an agreement between the partners to continue the network after the 36-month funding period by operating it on a self-financing basis if possible.
The project has generated a considerable quantity of information within the reporting period, and this has been made available by the following means:
- The project web-site was set up at www.mycotoxins.org in June 2001, to act as the focal point for the network, and for dissemination activities. It is organised by workpackage and allows interested parties to register for e-mail updates. There are also links to other EC funded projects and relevant sites.
- A two-day workshop was held at Leatherhead Food RA, UK in March 2001. On day 1 a series of presentations about the project were given to an invited audience of representatives from industry and the research community. On day 2 the partners met to establish priorities for the future operation of the project.
- Partners and national contact points have actively compiled details of contacts for incorporation into national mailing lists.
- The first Newsletter has been posted on the web-site and produced as a printed document for circulation. The second Newsletter has been completed and is currently being prepared for publication.
- The seven partners have compiled lists of literature reports that relate specifically to the areas covered by their workpackage. These are being incorporated into a database for use only by the partners.
- A total of six basic fact sheets have been produced. These include an introduction to mycotoxins, and sheets specific to individual mycotoxins. All have been posted on the web-site, and the first five have been printed.
- So far the consortium has produced a total of 17 specific fact sheets relating to the content of the seven workpackages. The majority of these have been posted on the web-site, and produced as printed documents. The remainder are currently being prepared for publication.
- Two on-line interactive training courses have so far been made available via the web-site. These have been used by approximately 50 people to date.
The ultimate expected result of this project is the establishment of a Network providing readily available information on many aspects of mycotoxins through the Web. Further expected results are the establishment of priorities, content and format of newsletters, fact sheets, training courses, and workshops by equally making use of the newest research results generated in the MYCOTOX cluster and its associated projects.