Improved analytical tools for the detection of harmful food components (Myco-DETECT)

Mycotoxins are highly toxic organic compounds. They are secondary metabolites of fungi, such as Aspergillus, Penicillium and Fusarium which contaminate many widely used food and feed products like cereal grains, nuts, coffee, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. The most relevant food and feed related mycotoxins are aflatoxins, trichothecenes (e.g. T-2, HT-2, DON, and NIV), zearalenone, fumonisins, ochratoxins, and patulin. Exposure to mycotoxins can cause acute and chronic diseases like hepatotoxicity, carcinogenesis, and neurotoxicity, and they are harmful for reproduction and for developing fetus, both humans and animals.

Mycotoxins can also be present in their conjugated (masked) forms which are produced in certain detoxification processes. In these processes plants transform mycotoxins to increase their solubility in water in order to protect themselves against their toxic effects. The transformation can be due to the conjugation of mycotoxins with carbohydrates, amino acids or sulphates (phase II metabolism) by the plant. The conjugated forms of mycotoxins cannot be detected by current methods developed for the detection of the parent compound only. In addition to the presence of conjugated mycotoxins in raw materials, they are also reported to be present in e.g. malt and beer, suggesting that conjugated forms of mycotoxins might be a threat also in processed foods. Based on these facts, there is a growing interest in developing the analytical methods for determining the conjugated mycotoxins along with their parent forms to better assess their significance relating to food safety.

Aims:

Evira’s main focus in this project is research and development of analytics for masked/conjugated type -A and -B trichothecenes including T-2, HT-2, DON and NIV, as well as investigation of the fate of these compounds during food processes. In addition, toxicological studies will be performed in order to assess the toxicity of masked mycotoxins and their possible risk to human and/or animal health. The aims of this project can be summarized into:

  • Development of analytical methodology based on mass spectrometry and utilisation of toxin specific antibodies for determination of type A and -B trichothecenes and their conjugates.
  • Conduction of a survey regarding conjugated mycotoxins in Finnish grains and monitoring of their concentrations in association with the precursor compounds, during growing season and storage.
  • Toxicological evaluation of mycotoxin conjugates in terms toxicity, bioaccessibility and bioavailability.
  • Investigation on the fate of masked mycotoxins during food manufacturing processes (fermentation, brewing, etc.).

Keywords:

Mycotoxins, masked mycotoxins, trichothecenes, GC-MS, LC-MS, antibody-based sample preparation

Responsible project leader:

Siitari, Harri, Senior Principal Scientist, Bio Technology, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Persons at Evira responsible for the project:

Nathanail, Alexis, Researcher, Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit

In cooperation with:

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland;
TEKES;
Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention Verifin;
Finnish Customs Laboratory;
IFA-Tulln (Austria);
private sector

Project status:

Previous

Year of commencement:

2010

Year of completion:

2015

Project is financed by:

Tekes (40304/11);
Evira (40304/11);
Oy Panimolaboratorio (40304/11);
Primori Oy (40304/11);
Labmaster Oy (40304/11)

Evira project code:

2 3010 199 8345