When the threat pops up
On September 21st, an Austrian based food company recalled certain charges of their Popcorn products, as an increased contamination with Aflatoxin B1 was found during routine analysis.
When being asked about the country of origin of the corn used for their popcorn products, the Austrian food company stated, “Since the company was founded in 1955, the seeds have been sourced from the USA. The corn matures under the best climatic conditions in the Orange River Valley.” In our yearly BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey (January-August 2018) US corn samples are frequently tested for Aflatoxin B1 as well. The metabolite was found in 9% of the samples, with a quite high average concentration of 32 ppb and a maximum concentration of 223 ppb.
The highly carcinogenic mycotoxin Aflatoxin B1 targets primarily the inner organs of an organism, causing even at low concentrations severe damages to the liver, the kidneys, as well as to the reproductive and immune systems. To counteract these risks, Aflatoxins are strictly regulated in several markets like the EU and USA. In the European Union, maximum levels of Aflatoxins in foodstuffs are laid down in the Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006. According to the regulation, the maximum level for Aflatoxin B1 for all cereals and all products derived from cereals, including processed cereal products, is 2 ppb. Maize and rice to be subjected to sorting or other physical treatment before human consumption or use as an ingredient in foodstuffs have a maximum level of 5 ppb for Aflatoxin B1. In terms of animal feed, the maximum level of Aflatoxin B1 for all feed materials and compound feed for mature animals in the EU is 20 ppb. For complementary and complete feed (10 ppb) as well as compound feed for dairy animals and immature animals (5 ppb) the maximum level for Aflatoxin B1 is, of course, lower. (Commission Regulation (EU) No 574/2011, Amendment to Directive 2002/32/EC; ELI: http://data.europa.eu/eli/reg/2011/574/oj)
Increased risk for Aflatoxin contamination according to GMP+ International
After the evaluation of analysis results of Aflatoxin B1, GMP+ International took account of the increased risk of contamination with this toxin in several countries. Therefore, the protocol for monitoring Aflatoxin B1 was changed. Additionally to considering pre-harvest conditions, it includes the risk that maize is mixed with maize grown in high-risk regions in 2017. A higher risk demands a more frequent analysis of samples and thus leads to more safety, as appropriate measures can be taken. The risk of Aflatoxin B1 contamination was increased from low to medium for Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Slovakia, Spain and Czech Republic. The risk was reduced from high to medium for India. (For more detail please see: https://www.gmpplus.org/en/news/posts/2018/september/20180906-aflatoxin-protocol/).
A higher risk of Aflatoxin contamination has not only been suggested by GMP+ International, but has also been suspected by different experts. Experts claim a particularly negative influence of climate change on the risk of occurrence of these dangerous toxins. For more information on this topic, please have a look at this previous blog. (https://www.biomin.net/en/blog-posts/taking-mycotoxin-control-to-the-next-level-5-takeaways-from-the-10th-world-mycotoxin-forum/).