Mycotoxicology Newsletter

July 2003   Volume VII, No. 1


The EC Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health met throughout 2002 and 2003 to discuss current mycotoxin regulations. Of particular concern was the disproportionate competitive advantage that could accrue to member states with more stringent limits on ochratoxin A and on aflatoxins B1 and M1 in infant foods. In the interests of both fair trade and the health of vulnerable populations, the committee agreed that tighter restrictions should be imposed on mycotoxins in foods intended for infants and young children, particularly on aflatoxin B1 and ochratoxin A in processed cereal-based foods and aflatoxin M1 in milk and formula.

Progress toward the new legislation was furthered by two separate reports—one on patulin and the other on ochratoxin A. In both cases, experts concluded that the relevant mycotoxin levels in the foods assessed were generally low, and that mean total dietary intakes (TDIs) fell below current recommended levels. The experts reported a mean TDI of patulin of 3.0/1.3 ng/kg bw/day in the total adult population of EU countries. Adult consumers of products such as apple juice averaged mean intakes of 21/13 ng/kg bw/day.Among children, the mean TDI of patulin in the total population was estimated at 28 ng/kg bw/day, and 64 ng/kg bw/day in the apple juice consumers. A corresponding ochratoxin A assessment incorporated new data on mycotoxin levels in human fluids and on previously unreported sources, including wine and coffee.The TDIs of ochratoxin A ranged from approximately 0.13 to 3.14 ng/kg bw/day in total population and from 0.88 to 3.55 ng/kg bw/day for consumers.

Reports by the Scientific Cooperation (SCOOP) Task experts on the assessment of dietary intake of ochratoxin A and patulin by the population of EU Member States are available at the following websites:

Both reports emphasized that certain countries suffered more significant exposure and that future regulations should reflect the risks these mycotoxins pose to more vulnerable populations. In particular, the patulin experts noted that despite generally low patulin levels in baby food, they occasionally encountered levels high enough to raise serious concern. The ochratoxin A experts expressed similar concerns about the trend toward higher exposure in children who consumed cereals. Both teams therefore advised the EU to consider lower maximum limits for children.They concluded that to reliably determine the extent of exposure in various populations, Member States needed to acquire more accurate consumption data, as well as to agree on a precise standardized testing method, a suitably low limit of detection, and more representative sampling procedures.

In October of 2002, a provisional limit of 10 µg/kg of patulin in apple juice and apple products for babies and young children was proposed. However, it was decided that if an internationally validated method of detecting patulin at such a low level hadn't been agreed on by the implementation date, the limit would be set at 15 µg/kg.

The European Commission has adopted a regulation (EC Regulation No. 472/2002 of 12 March 2002) for several newly discovered sources of mycotoxins. Proposed levels included 5 µg/kg and 10 µg/kg of aflatoxin B1 and total aflatoxins, respectively, for certain spices such as chili powder, ginger, and nutmeg; 10 µg/kg of ochratoxin A in dried vine fruit; 5 µg/kg in raw cereals; and 3 µg/kg in cereal-derived products. In May 2003, the Commission proposed, as an initial basis for discussion, limits of 3-4 µg/kg for roasted coffee, 6-10 µg/kg for instant coffee, and 2 µg/kg for wine and grape juice. Possible limits for green coffee, spices, cocoa, and beer and a revision of the limits for dried vine fruit would be considered subsequently. The proposed regulations reflected ongoing concern about the health as well as the economic effects of ochratoxin A contamination in foodstuffs.

These documents, as well as other information on EU food safety legislation, can be found on the following website: