Mycotoxins: Analytical Challenges



Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Pharmacy, Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.


Mycotoxins are natural secondary fungal metabolites produced on agricultural commodities. Mould and mycotoxin contamination may occur before harvesting, between harvesting and drying, and during storage. FAO has estimated that approximately 25% of the world’s crops are contaminated by molds and affected by mycotoxins, and the estimated loss extends to billions of dollars. Since fungi have a widespread distribution in the environment, mycotoxins are considered to be one of the most important contaminants in foodstuffs and feedstuffs. More than 500 different mycotoxins are known, but only a few present considerable food safety hazards. Aspergillus, Fusarium, and Penicillium are the natural fungal flora associated with foods. The most important mycotoxins are aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, zearalenone, deoxynivalenol, fumonisins, and patulin. The common occurrence of mycotoxins in foodstuffs and feedstuffs poses a threat to the humans and animals health. Mycotoxins have acute toxic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, teratogenic, estrogenic, and immunotoxic effects in humans and animals. Despite occurrence of mycotoxin contamination of agricultural products in the developed countries, mycotoxin exposure have greatly been reduced in these populations due to the presence of a legislatively regulated food processing and marketing system and the application of different strategies. However, in the developingcountries, much of the population relies on subsistence farming or on unregulated local markets. Therefore, regulatory limits for major mycotoxin classes and selected individual mycotoxins have been established in many countries to protect the consumer from the harmful effects of these toxins. The requirement to apply these regulatory limits has prompted development of analytical methods for the identification and quantification of mycotoxins in different foodstuffs and feedstuffs.