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Contamination of infant formula with fusarium toxins too high!

12/2000, 06.07.2000

BgVV calls on manufacturers to dramatically reduce this level

Fusarium is a genus of mould which attacks the stalks of cereals (wheat, rye, maize) and emits its metabolites, including deoxynivalenol and fumonisin, into the cereal grains. These fusarium toxins are cytotoxic and impair the immune system. According to the most recent studies the fusarium infestation of cereals is on the increase. When examining cereal-containing infant food (e.g. maize semolina) from various manufacturers, the Länd authorities repeatedly found high contamination levels with fusarium toxins.

In some cases more than 600 µg per kg food of deoxynivalenol (DON) were found in wheat and maize products. When an infant or small child has a daily intake of up to 20 grams of cereal products contaminated in this way, then the temporary tolerable daily intake of 1 µg per kg body weight derived by the Nordic Council and the Scientific Committee on Food of the European Union is considerably exceeded. A consumption volume of two times 20 g cereal per day corresponds on the other hand to the nutrition recommendations of the Research Institute for Children's Nutrition in Dortmund for infants aged between six and nine months.

Fumonisins are moulds which are produced mainly on maize by fusarium. In animal experiments fumonisins have been shown to be carcinogenic. Epidemiological studies in South Africa and China indicate their involvement in the onset of oesophageal cancer. The fumonisins concentrations measured in foods in Germany as a rule were very low.

In conjunction with a project financed by the Federal Ministry of Health, the research group "fumonisin intake by the German consumer" examined various types of children's food for fumonisins. The chair of milk hygiene and technology at the Ludwigs-Maximilian University Munich, the Institute for Food Chemistry, the Länd control authority Trier and the Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine, Berlin were all involved.

Evaluation of the results available so far showed that the majority of the products which contained maize flour as one of their main ingredients, showed concentrations of between 100 and 500 µg/kg in the samples tested. The increased concentrations indicated that the batches had not been sufficiently tested for fusarium toxins. By means of careful selection and control of raw materials, the contamination of the final product with these toxic moulds could be considerably reduced.

For reasons of preventive consumer protection, BgVV calls on manufacturers to reduce as far as possible the contents of fusarium toxins particularly in the production of infant and small children's food.

The research group fumonisins and BgVV are calling for EU-wide maximum levels for fusarium toxins in order to reduce the fumonisin intake by the consumer and by small children in particular. The Federal Ministry of Health has already clearly supported the call for maximum levels vis a vis the European Commission. A data collection on the Europe-wide contamination of foods with fusarium toxins is underway.


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