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Researchers urge action on Indian cereal contamination

By Kacey Culliney , 15-Jan-2013
Last updated on 15-Jan-2013 at 14:00 GMT

Cereal contamination in India must be tackled, say researchers
Cereal contamination in India must be tackled, say researchers

The high level of mycotoxin contamination in Indian cereals must be addressed with improved monitoring and maximum levels for contamination set, a new study says.

Findings published in the Journal of Food Control showed a ‘high level’ of deoxynivalenol (DON) contamination in Indian wheat, maize and barley from the Uttar Pradesh district – the country’s second largest state. India is the second largest wheat-producing region in the world.

Out of 100 samples (50 wheat, 25 maize and 25 barley), DON was detected in 30% - with 7% exceeding the 1mg/kg limit on wheat for human consumption set by India’s Food Safety and Standard Regulation (FSSR).

Contamination levels ranged from 0.01mg/kg to 4.73mg/kg.

“Control of contamination by these mycotoxins is quite difficult; hence a continuous survey of the occurrence becomes necessary. Thus, an accurate, convenient and cost efficient method for determination of the contaminated cereals is important for the supply of safe foods,” the researchers said.

The researchers recommended use of HPTLC (high pressure thin liquid chromatography) as a method that should be rolled out on a national level to screen the commodities.

Mycotoxins and global action

Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites formed by fungi growing on agricultural commodities and cause adverse health effects such as vomiting in humans when consumed.

Major mycotoxins include aflatoxins, fumonisins, trichothecenes, ergot alkaloids and ochratoxins however deoxynivalenol (DON) is the most prevalent worldwide in crops used for food and feed consumption.

Given the occurrence, frequency and implications of DON entering the food chain, the European Commission set maximum permissible limits in 2006 for unprocessed cereals. The USFDA also established advisory guidelines for DON for finished wheat products for human consumption in 2010.

However, India’s FSSR has only set a maximum level in wheat, prompting the researchers to make a call for change.

The researchers noted that in India, monitoring of mycotoxin is limited to aflatoxin detection. Therefore the maximum permissible level for other mycotoxins is not prescribed but should be, they said.

“Specific standards should be incorporated in legislation to reduce the exposure risk of DON and continuous monitoring of DON along with other mycotoxin in food commodities should be performed regularly for human consumption,” they said.

Source: Journal of Food Control
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.07.041
“Occurrence of deoxynivalenol in cereals and exposure risk assessment in Indian population”
Authors: S. Mishra, KM. Ansari, PD. Dwicedi, HP. Pandey and M. Das

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