All corn products tested for fumonisin toxins found safe for human consumption

December 20, 2012, Ottawa: As part of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) routine testing of various food products, a survey released today found that all corn products tested for fumonisin (FMN) toxins were safe. Fumonisins are naturally-occurring toxins released by Fusarium moulds on corn growing in fields (pre-harvest) and on raw corn/finished corn products in storage (post-harvest).

The CFIA tested 276 samples of domestic and imported corn products in 2010-2011 for FMN. A majority of the samples analyzed (57%) contained low but detectable levels of FMN. Only eight samples exceeded established international maximum levels but Health Canada determined that they would not pose a human health concern, and therefore no recalls were required. This survey provides baseline surveillance data that will be used by Health Canada to update the estimated exposure of the Canadian population.

FMNs interfere with human cell metabolism and are considered possible carcinogens. They have also been associated with oesophageal cancer and neural tube defects in some geographic areas of the world. The major potential source of FMN in Canadian diets is contaminated corn products.

Guidance documents were published to help industry prevent the contamination of foods and reduce mycotoxin, such as FMN. There are no established maximum levels for FMN in foods in Canada. When elevated levels of FMN are detected, it cautions that further assessment is needed. Health Canada’s additional assessment help determine if the food poses a health risk. This assessment is based on the contaminant level, the expected frequency of exposure and the contribution to overall diet. The CFIA then determines whether further action is needed, up to and including product seizure and/or recall. If a human health risk is found, a public recall notice is issued immediately.

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Additional Information

2010-2011 Fumonisins in Corn Products