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article imageMold risk with oat based breakfast cereals

By Tim Sandle     Feb 28, 2015 in Health
Scientists have warned that oats and oat products, like breakfast cereals, require closer monitoring for fungal toxins. This comes from a review of U.S. oat products, some of which contain a mold-related toxin called ochratoxin A.
The fungal toxin of concern, ochratoxin A (OTA), has been linked with kidney cancer in animal studies. The warning has been issued by scientists Dojin Ryu and Hyun Jung Lee. Prior to the detection in oats and oat-based products, the toxin has been found in pork, dried fruits, wine, coffee and other products. While the effects in animals have been documented, there has yet to be any direct link to the presence of the fungal toxin and a risk to human health. The scientists who raise the issue are concerned that this is a link that has yet to be proven, rather than the absence of any risk at all. Currently, the toxin is not listed as something of concern or of risk to U.S. consumers.
This is in contrast to the European Union, where maximum levels of ochratoxin A have been laid down for cereal and cereal products, dried vine fruit, coffee, wine, grape juice, spices, liquorice root, processed cereal based foods, and baby foods for infants. OTA is a relatively heat-stable molecule and survives most cooking processes.
The toxin is produced by several types of filamentous fungi, including the species Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus carbonarius and Penicillium verrucosum. OTA is one of the most-abundant food-contaminating mycotoxins (toxins produced from fungi.) that ochratoxin A is potentially carcinogenic to humans is based on studies in mice where the toxin was administered orally. A further study indicates that the toxin could be responsible for human Balkan endemic nephropathy (BEN) and associated urinary tract tumors.
With the new U.S. based research, Dojin Ryu and Hyun Jung Lee analyzed 500 samples of corn-, rice-, wheat- and oat-based breakfast cereals purchased from U.S. stores over two years. The laboratory examination discovered that in 8 percent of oat-based breakfast cereal samples the OTA levels were above those considered safe in Europe. The findings could have implications for consumer health and the scientists argue that oat production, storage and processing requires careful review.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The research paper is titled "Significance of Ochratoxin A in Breakfast Cereals from the United States."
More about Breakfast, oat cereal, Fungi, Fungus
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