Mycotoxins are toxic metabolites produced by fungi growing in food and animal feed. They can be formed during e.g. cereal growth or post-harvest storage of crops, but also on final food products when not stored or handled appropriately. It is estimated that about 20% of food products, mainly of plant origin can be contaminated with mycotoxins. European legislation sets maximum limits of certain mycotoxins in food and feed products to protect the health of consumers and animal health by imposing legal obligations for food business operators to ensure that the food and feed they sell is safe for human and animal consumption.
The EURL for mycotoxins hosted by the JRC since 2006 aims to facilitate the implementation of European legislation related to monitoring of mycotoxins in food of plant origin and animal feed. Several analytical methods have been validated by the EURL enabling official control laboratories to make use of methods with known performance. The majority of these methods have already become international standards (CEN, ISO, AOAC) or are in the process of becoming a standard.
The main tasks of the EURL for mycotoxins are:
- method development and validation
- organising comparative testing
The activities of the EURL concern aflatoxin B1, total aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, patulin, deoxynivalenol, zearalenone, fumonisins B1 & B2 and T-2 & HT-2 toxin, and ergot alkaloids.
The JRC-Geel and the EURL for mycotoxins develop analytical approaches and validate them in-house. In case a method is suitable and robust enough, the EU-RL organises an international collaborative study to validate the method and to assess the method performance. The collaborative studies are carried out according to an internationally harmonised validation protocol.
Interlaboratory comparisons organised by the EURL for the NRLs enable them to assess their performance and allow improving the overall correctness of analytical results for mycotoxins.