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Is our food contaminated with mycotoxins? Rapid analytical methods make a quick answer possible

Is our food contaminated with mycotoxins? Rapid analytical methods make a quick answer possible
Apr 16 2019

The JRC contributed to a joint project aiming at the evaluation of rapid screening methods for the analysis of mycotoxins involving first time users. The results demonstrated the robustness and reliability of all methods tested ensuring the efficiency of control programmes.

Mycotoxins are secondary toxic metabolites produced by fungi and occurring in a wide range of different cereals. These toxins can be present at significant levels in staple food and feed, thus posing a severe health risk to humans and animals.

This situation triggers a strong need for rapid methods to detect these substances at early stage of the production chain of food and feed.

In order to address this demand, research organisations and companies have developed rapid screening methods, applying quite different techniques. When placing these methods on the market, corresponding promotion campaigns often underline how easy they are and how quick a response is delivered. But is this true?

Within the European project MYCOKEY “Integrated and innovative key actions for mycotoxin management in the food and feed chain”, the CNR-National Council of Italy in Bari organised with the support of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) a one-week training course.

Users applied for the first time 5 different methods for the detection of specific mycotoxins, namely deoxynivalenol and aflatoxin B1 in wheat and in addition aflatoxin B1 in maize.

At the end of the training course, all participants analysed blind samples to check whether correct results could be obtained. The results reported by the applicants were finally subjected to statistical analysis applying a validation procedure previously developed in a joint project of the CNR and the JRC.


These are the key messages from the study:

• The purpose of all methods is to screen a high number samples, just analysing suspicious samples by more complicated methods
• All methods applied by First Time Users showed an acceptable performance profile, thus demonstrating the robustness of these methods
• Four methods require a laboratory environment, while one test can be applied on-site using a smartphone as measuring device
• The use of such simple and quick screening methods improves the efficiency of control programmes set up by industry and control laboratories

Read more in:
Lattanzio V. et al: Evaluation of Mycotoxin Screening Tests in a Verification Study Involving First Time Users. Toxins 2019, 11, 129, DOI:10.3390/toxins11020129