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Mitigation of Mycotoxins Along Food Processing: from Scientific Findings to Practical Guidance – the ILSI Europe Experience

 Addressing the mycotoxin issue is becoming a key challenge for food actors, as evidenced by the recent report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on the impact of climate change on mycotoxin proliferation; for instance they estimate that every day around 500 million of low income people basing their diet on maize and cereals and leaving in sub- Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia are exposed to aflatoxins and fumonisins.
In order to prevent losses of otherwise suitable feed materials and foodstuffs due to mycotoxins, decontamination processes have been developed and applied over the years.
Food processing can impact mycotoxins in raw material in different ways: i) physical elimination (e.g. cleaning, sieving), ii) chemical transformation or interaction with food matrix which can result in metabolites of either lower or higher toxicity than the parent compound, iii) release from masked or entrapped forms which may increase bioavailability, iv) enzymatic detoxification, and v) adsorption to bacterial cell walls which may be reversed during further processing or digestion.
The various food processing that may have mitigating effects on mycotoxins include cleaning, milling, brewing, fermentation, cooking, baking, frying, roasting, flaking, alkaline cooking, nixtamalization, and extrusion.
In 2014-2016, the International Life Sciences Institute Europe (ILSI Europe) Process-related Compounds and Natural Toxins Task Force dedicated a project to understand the possibility in mitigating mycotoxins, correspondently improving the safety of the food commodities. The main task defined was to critically review the state of the art about mycotoxin reduction by food processing: it summarized the impact of the different decontamination / detoxifying processes on various food commodities; finally, the impact of transformed mycotoxins leading to a lower mycotoxin concentration and a lower toxicity was illustrated and discussed. This work conduced to a final open access manuscript published on Mycotoxin Research journal already downloaded more than 26000 times and with more than 200 bibliographic citations.
The big interest of the scientific community around this work stimulated then a correspondent new effort in 2017-2019 as a follow-up activity to translate the scientific findings of the Expert Group on ‘Reactions and Potential Mitigation of Mycotoxins during Food Processing’ to a concrete guidance for industry.
This present Black & White Report Series is directly targeted to industry to actively participate in the global mycotoxin mitigation strategy. It will now help international food producers (related to various commodities, such as cereals & derived products, cocoa, fruit juices, dairy products…) with clear, easy to implement, practical suggestions & guidelines for process adaptation aiming to mitigate mycotoxins.
It could also be useful for official body representatives who could then suggest global mitigation strategies to the all food chain actors and adapt regulation accordingly.
This publication will be regularly updated with the most recent scientific developments and periodically extended to other commodities or enriched with innovative processes every 3-4 years.