Index to MAFF UK Food Surveillance Information
61: MAFF UK -
Surveillance for Fumonisins in Maize-Based Foodstuffs (May 1995)
This survey determined levels of fumonisins B1, B2
and B3 in a range of foodstuffs, including a variety of cereal
products (other than those based on maize), fruits and vegetables. A total of
335 out of 336 samples (>99 percent) did not contain measurable amounts of
fumonisins. Only 1 sample of Bombay mix, less than 1 percent of the total
number of samples analysed, contained fumonisin B1 at a low level
This survey of foodstuffs was carried out to determine whether fumonisins
occur in a range of UK foods other than those based on maize. These results
support the assumption that fumonisins occur primarily in maize and maize-based
foods, and that levels are not measurable in most other foods. These data can
now be used to direct any future work on occurrence and control of fumonisins in
foodstuffs and to support the UK position in any discussions on European
legislation to limit these mycotoxins.
Fumonisins are a group of naturally occurring toxins produced by certain
Fusarium mould species which are usually associated with maize (corn).
Fumonisins in animal feeds have been linked with certain animal diseases,
including leukoencephalomalacia which affects the central nervous system of
horses. Concern has been raised in a number of countries about the presence of
fumonisins in human food. The Department of Health continues to review data on
potential toxic effects but there are few adequate data available.
The potential carcinogenic effects of fumonisins were discussed by the
Committee on Carcinogenicity (COC) in July 1993, but it was unable to reach any
firm conclusions on the available evidence at that time. However it will review
fumonisins again when the results of current carcinogenicity studies become
MAFF has previously carried out surveillance for fumonisins in traditional
Chinese and Indian foods (Bulletin No. 53, September 1994) and has also
determined the levels of fumonisins in a variety of maize-based foods and
cereals (Bulletin No. 61, May 1995).
The aim of this survey was to determine whether fumonisins occur in
foodstuffs other than maize, and if so, to assess the UK dietary exposure to
this group of mycotoxins from these sources.
A range of foodstuffs was analysed for fumonisin B1, B2
and B3, including wheat based products (bread, pasta, cake,
breakfast cereal, noodle, snacks, biscuits), rye based products (bread, crisp
bread), oat based products (breakfast cereal, cake, biscuits), barley based
products (malted drinks, brewed products), rice (long and short grain, brown,
pudding), multigrain products (bread, breakfast cereal, muesli, snack bar,
Bombay mix), soya products (meat, milk, flour), nuts (hazelnut, pecan, walnut,
pistachio, groundnut, almond), tomato products (ketchup, puree, fresh and tinned
tomatoes), sugar cane (granulated sugar, golden syrup, black treacle), dried
fruits (figs, dates, apricots, raisins, sultanas, currants), Brassicas
(broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower), fruits (banana, pineapple, mango, red
peppers) and potato.
Method of Analysis
All analyses were carried out at RHM Technology Ltd, High Wycombe, using an
HPLC method with fluorescence detection. The limit of determination (LOD) of
the method was 10 µg/kg for each mycotoxin. Spiked samples were used to
assess recoveries. Recoveries in the range 70-110 percent were classed as
acceptable. All results were corrected for recovery.
During repeatability studies, based on the analysis of a naturally
contaminated maize sample, a relative standard deviation of 4.2 percent was
achieved. Recoveries of fumonisins B1, B2, and B3
were in the range 71-102 percent , with mean recoveries of 89 percent, 90
percent and 91 percent respectively.
A total of 335/336 (>99 percent) of samples did not contain measurable
levels of fumonisins B1, B2 and B3 (i.e.
contained fumonisins below the limit of determination [10µg/kg]).
Fumonisin B1 was measurable only in 1/336 (<1 percent) of food
samples analysed, at a level of 20µg/kg. This sample was Bombay mix, a
multigrain product, which may have contained maize.
MAFF has previously carried out surveillance for fumonisins B1,
B2, and B3 in a variety of maize-based foods (Bulletin
No. 61, May 1995). In that survey, fumonisins were detected in 26 percent of
all samples at total concentrations ranging from 10-2124µg/kg. The level
of fumonisin B1 detected in the current survey (20µg/kg) is
within the range reported previously for maize-based foods and the results of
this survey give no cause for concern. These data support the assumption that
fumonisins occur primarily in maize and maize based foods, and that levels are
not measurable in most other foods. Any future work can now be directed towards
studying the occurrence and control of fumonisins in maize. These data will
also be used to support the UK position during negotiations over possible
European legislation for mycotoxins in food.
Further information can be obtained from:
Dr DP Atkins
MAFF, Food Safety and Science Group
Room 208 Ergon House,
c/o Nobel House,
17 Smith Square,
Tel: +44 (0) 171 238 6198
Fax: +44 (0) 171 238 5331
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