Poisons under control: The difficult search for dangerous mycotoxins
Do you know how many moulds are in a slice of bread? And has it occured to you whether these moulds pose a danger? BAM's experts are carrying out research into this topic and have developed an analytical method to detect the toxic metabolic compounds of moulds.
Moulds, and more than 300 species of them exist, can be found everywhere in the world and they can infect all kinds of food. Some of them generate toxic metabolic compounds, the so-called mycotoxins, which, when consumed, may cause serious damage to our health. Mycotoxins are stable compounds and are not destroyed either by cooking or roasting or by the processes of the food processing industry. Even where no moulds can be recognized, they may be present with their toxins. Therefore it is of crucial importance to detect them and prevent contaminated food from getting into production and the trade.
In the European Union, 11 mycotoxins have been identified so far and limiting values established (COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1881/2006 and 1126/2007). In co-operation with the Austrian Department for Agrobiotechnology IFA-Tulln, BAM has developed an analytical method which can quantitatively determine mycotoxins.
The analysis of the samples is carried out using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled with mass spectrometry (MS). By means of HPLC a separation of individual mycotoxins is achieved followed by MS detection. The mycotoxin molecules are fragmented by a collision with nitrogen molecules. The fragments formed during this process are very specific to the respective mycotoxins and can therefore be used for identification and quantitative analysis.