2009-2010 Ochratoxin A and Deoxynivalenol in Selected Foods

Executive Summary

The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to test various foods for specific hazards.

This targeted survey focuses on ochratoxin A (OTA) and deoxynivalenol (DON), which are a class of mycotoxins produced by fungal contamination of foods such as grains and fruit. Fungal contamination may occur in the field or during storage of the raw commodities. Processing of the affected grains/fruit may result in detectable levels of these mycotoxins in finished food products.

The main objectives of this survey were to:

  • Provide baseline surveillance data for OTA levels in foods that are known to have the potential for OTA and DON contamination. These foods include infant foods (formula, cereal), beverages (grape juice, wine, beer), and grain (wheat, oat and corn) products.
  • Obtain a snapshot of the available infant food, beverage and cereal-based commodities and their compliance with Health Canada's proposed guidelines for OTA.
  • Provide baseline surveillance data for DON levels in wheat, corn and oat products.

The compliance rate for OTA in infant foods, which included infant formula and infant cereals, was 96%. Out of 150 infant food samples (75 formula and 75 cereal), 20 samples contained detectable levels of OTA. Of the 20 positive samples, six infant cereal samples exceeded the OTA regulations proposed by Health Canada.

The compliance rate for OTA in beverages (grape juice, wine, and beer - 50 samples each) was 100%. There was one wine sample in which OTA was detected at a level that was compliant with Health Canada's proposed regulatory limits for OTA.

In cereal products, the compliance rate for OTA was 98%. Out of 150 cereal products (75 wheat, 50 corn, 25 oat) sampled, 31 contained detectable levels of OTA. Of the 31 positive samples, three oat samples exceeded Health Canada's proposed regulations for OTA.

The compliance rate for DON in cereal products could not be determined as there are no established or proposed regulatory limits for DON in the commodities tested in this survey. No detectable levels of DON were found in 39% of the wheat products, 32% of the corn products, and 72% of the oat products sampled. The measured DON levels ranged from 0.01 ppm to 6.01 ppm in wheat products; 0.01 ppm to 1.38 ppm in corn products; and 0.02 ppm to 0.13 ppm in oat products.

In summary, 450 total samples were tested for OTA resulting in an overall compliance rate of 98%. One hundred and fifty of these samples were also tested for DON, in which it was detected in 42% of the samples. All samples that exceeded the proposed regulations for OTA and all positive results for DON were referred to the designated CFIA program for appropriate follow-up actions. These actions may range from notification of the producer or importer, follow-up inspections, additional directed sampling, and product recalls.

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