Top 10 mycotoxic foods

1. Grains and grain products

Grains and grain products are considered as one of the most important sources of mycotoxins. Many different kinds of mycotoxins have been found in grains and grain products, mostly Ochratoxin A (OTA).

Grains are composed of carbohydrates (cellulose, starch like dextrin) and storage material (proteins like gluten), which is a good carrier for mycotoxins. They can be a real danger to humans and animals’, if they are made from contaminated grains, which contain toxins.

The most important sources of mold-contaminated grain products in food chains are cereals, cereal byproducts and bakery products. These should be tested constantly.

Note: I only put the name of the most common mycotoxin. If you want to read more about mycotoxins, check out this article.

See also: Top 10 european foods

2. Tree nuts and peanuts

Tree nuts and peanuts

Nuts are an important source of mycotoxins; especially peanuts contain high amounts of aflatoxin (AF) and ochratoxin A (OTA). Other nuts like pistachio, hazelnuts or walnuts can also contain high levels of mycotoxins.

Note: Mycotoxin contamination in nuts depends on the geographic regions, climatic conditions and storage time. For instance some studies showed that some crops exposed to high temperatures lead to higher concentrations of ochratoxin A (OTA), than those exposed to lower temperatures.

3. Coffee beans and cocoa beans

Aflatoxin (AF) is one of the most important mycotoxins for coffee beans which are growing in warm climates like Africa, India or Brazil (and other countries). They can spread easily through dry seasons and monsoon seasons; during this time farmers must store their crops carefully. AF produces more severe symptoms than OTA.

Note: To reduce contamination, you have to avoid moldy grains and corn. If you choose organic food, your risk of being exposed to mycotoxins decreases as well. Furthermore growers should use raw materials that do not contain aflatoxin or ochratoxin A yet (e.g., maize meal). More information about the effects of AF on human health can be found here .

4. Confectionery products containing chocolate, carob or peanut-butter filling nougatine

Confectionery products containing chocolate carob or peanut butter filling nougatine

Nougatine is a mixture made from ground roasted peanuts and sugar or honey for example, which can be contaminated with aflatoxin (AF) during storage periods. Products like confectioneries contain high amounts of mycotoxin contaminated nougatine.

5. Mouldy citrus fruits

Moldy oranges (or other citrus fruits like tangerines, grapefruit or lemons) can contain high amounts of citrinin (CIT). Citrinin is known for its nephrotoxic and hepatotoxic effects on humans. Therefore it is advisable to avoid eating moldy peels of citrus fruits.

6. Dried figs, prunes, apricots and raisins

Many mycotoxins have been found in dried fruit like plums, apricots or raisins; especially high levels of Ochratoxin A (OTA) were detected in these kinds of food. Generally high temperatures are required for mold growth, but some types of molds can grow on foods with low water activity (and therefore limiting moisture) and high levels of carbohydrates. Currently dried fruits are considered as a risk group concerning mycotoxin contamination.

7. Wood-based processed products

Wood based processed products

8. Peanuts and peanut butter

Peanut is a kind of legume that is known to contain high amounts of Ochratoxin A (OTA). OTA does not only occur in peanuts, it can also be found in small amounts in different kinds of food products, like red wine or coffee. In the United States several outbreaks were reported due to consumption of contaminated peanuts or peanut butter. Therefore this product should always be checked regarding its quality and safety .

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9. Unpasteurized fruit juice

Unpasteurized fruit juice contains high amounts of citrinin (CIT) that can be produced by certain molds, like Monascus purpureus . This mold can grow on fruits during storage time and therefore contamination with CIT is possible.

10. Grains or cereals

Mold-contaminated cereals are considered to be the primary source of mycotoxin exposure in human beings and other animals’, if they are made from contaminated grains, which contain toxins. The most important sources of mold-contaminated grain products in food chains are cereals, cereal byproducts and bakery products. These should be tested constantly .

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